People v. Perez

Decision Date09 February 1987
Citation511 N.Y.S.2d 687,127 A.D.2d 707
PartiesThe PEOPLE, etc., Respondent, v. Anthony PEREZ, Appellant.
CourtNew York Supreme Court — Appellate Division

Philip L. Weinstein, New York City (Jill F. Moscowitz, of counsel), for appellant.

John J. Santucci, Dist. Atty., Kew Gardens (Emil Bricker, of counsel), for respondent.

Before MANGANO, J.P., and KUNZEMAN, KOOPER and SPATT, JJ.

MEMORANDUM BY THE COURT.

Appeal by the defendant from a judgment of the Supreme Court, Queens County (Dufficy, J.), rendered June 18, 1985, convicting him of burglary in the second degree and criminal mischief in the fourth degree, upon a jury verdict, and imposing sentence.

ORDERED that the judgment is reversed, on the law and as a matter of discretion in the interest of justice, and a new trial is ordered.

On February 26, 1983, complainant Eula Lee Wade went to sleep at midnight and, at 3:15 A.M., was awakened by a noise. She testified that she saw a figure through her bedroom door, which was partially open. She switched her bedside lamp on and saw the intruder come through door, and he ran over toward the bed. The man was wearing black pants and a black jacket and carrying a large cloth sack. She further testified that the intruder was in the room approximately two minutes.

The afternoon following the incident, Detective Keevan came to the Wade home with a book of photographs. The defendant's photograph was in the array, and the complainant was almost certain of the defendant's identification but was not "a hundred per cent" sure. On March 20, 1983, Detective Keevan again visited the complainant and showed her six photographs including one of the defendant, and she still could not make a positive identification.

On June 7, 1983, Police Officer Reynolds observed the defendant, whom he had known for five years, in a park not far from the Wade house. He picked up the complainant at her home and drove her to the park where she identified the defendant who then evaded arrest and turned himself in three weeks later. The complainant later identified the defendant in a lineup and in court.

In his defense, the defendant testified that he was not the intruder in the Wade home on the morning of February 26, 1983. He stated that he was at a birthday party on the evening of February 25, 1983, at a friend's house, got very drunk and left the party on February 26 between 4:30 and 5 A.M. and was driven home.

In this single-witness identification case, the judgment of conviction must be reversed because of multiple errors which occurred during the course of the trial which combined, deprived the defendant of a fair trial.

Prior to the trial, in response to a Sandoval motion, the trial court ruled, inter alia, that the prosecutor could not mention the defendant's youthful offender adjudication of May 5, 1979, involving a stolen skateboard, but permitted him, on cross-examination, to inquire about the underlying facts.

Initially, the prosecutor took unfair advantage of an obvious inadvertent mistake by the defendant. Although the prosecutor was well aware, from the defendant's record of prior convictions which was in his possession, that the defendant had been adjudicated a youthful offender only in 1979, at which time his photograph became available to law enforcement authorities, he pursued a line of questioning on cross-examination which raised the inference that the defendant was involved in two criminal incidents, namely, in 1977 and 1979. Over objection, the prosecutor was permitted to confuse the defendant at the risk of misleading the jury in this regard, as follows:

"Q In 1977, this business with the skateboard happened, right?

"A I believe it was '79.

"Q Wait a minute. You said it was when you were fifteen years old, right?

"A Right.

"[The Defense Counsel]: Judge, let's not be argumentative, please.

"[The Prosecutor]: I'm not being argumentative. I am asking him.

"Q Was it when you were fifteen years old?

"A Yes.

"Q So that was 1977, right?

"A Yes.

"Q So, let's get into 1979 then. Did you possess stolen property pursuant to a robbery in 1979?

"[The Defense Counsel]: Objection, Your Honor. I move to strike that. May we have a sidebar?

"THE COURT: We just completed one, Counsel.

"[The Defense Counsel]: [The Prosecutor] I think, knows better than that.

"[The Prosecutor]: I don't know what I know better than.

"Q So, what's the story, Anthony?

"A Yes.

"Q Yes, you did?

"A Yes.

* * *

* * *

"Q Well, before you said you only had your picture taken by the police once when you were fifteen years old which would be 1977; is that correct?

"A I believe it was '79. I'm not sure really.

"Q Well, you were fifteen years old in 1977, right?

"A Yes.

"Q So, what's 1979? You were seventeen years old then.

"A I'm not too sure. It was a long time ago.

* * *

* * *

"Q I show you Defendant's I. Take a look at that first picture there. Is that the one they took of you in 1977?

"A I'm not sure.

"[The Defense Counsel]: Objection, your Honor. This is beyond the scope of direct examination.

"THE COURT: Objection overruled.

"Q You're not sure?

"A I'm not sure."

The door was opened to this line of inquiry by the defense attorney who, in his direct examination of the defendant, attempted to reveal to the jury the underlying acts of the youthful offender adjudication (see, e.g., People v. Hardwick, 122 A.D.2d 165, 504 N.Y.S.2d 541, lv. denied 68 N.Y.2d 813, --- N.Y.S.2d ----, 499 N.E.2d 879; People v. Roseman, 78 A.D.2d 878, 433 N.Y.S.2d 174). He did this by asking the defendant whether his photograph was ever taken by the police department. The prosecutor, however, exceeded the permissible area of invited response in his deliberate attempt to mislead the jury to infer that the defendant had two, rather than one, prior adjudications. The prosecutor's actions were similar to those condemned in People v. Hamilton, 121 A.D.2d 176, 179, 502 N.Y.S.2d 747, wherein the defendant misstated an alibi date, and the prosecutor intentionally took advantage of the defendant's inadvertent mistake "to confuse the defendant and to ridicule him on the basis of a pretended belief that the defendant had given manifestly absurd testimony". Since this is far from an overwhelming case, we cannot consider this error to be harmless.

The defendant was further prejudiced by testimony bolstering the complainant's identification. In the People's case, Police Officer Reynolds testified that he asked the complainant to accompany him to a park where the defendant was present. Over objection, the police officer was permitted to testify that the complainant identified the defendant as the intruder in her house. This testimony went beyond the "implicit" testimony condemned by our courts (see, e.g., People v. Holt, 67 N.Y.2d 819, 501 N.Y.S.2d 641, 492 N.E.2d 769; see also, People v. Johnson, 57 N.Y.2d 969, 457 N.Y.S.2d 230, 443 N.E.2d 478; People v. Bowman, 122 A.D.2d 849, 505 N.Y.S.2d 717; People v. Vasquez, 120 A.D.2d 757, 502 N.Y.S.2d 282).

Where, as here, the conviction is based upon identification testimony by a single witness who made a brief observation of the...

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2 cases
  • People v. Polidore
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court — Appellate Division
    • March 23, 1992
    ...158 A.D.2d 633, 551 N.Y.S.2d 602; People v. Bailey, 155 A.D.2d 467, 547 N.Y.S.2d 646; People v. Hart, 140 A.D.2d 711; People v. Perez, 127 A.D.2d 707, 511 N.Y.S.2d 687; People v. Vasquez, 120 A.D.2d 757, 502 N.Y.S.2d The present case is distinguishable, most obviously, in that there was no ......
  • People v. Blue
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court — Appellate Division
    • November 6, 1989
    ...is no serious issue upon the point" (People v. Caserta, 19 N.Y.2d 18, 21, 277 N.Y.S.2d 647, 224 N.E.2d 82; see, People v. Perez, 127 A.D.2d 707, 710-711, 511 N.Y.S.2d 687; People v. Felder, supra ...

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