People v. Snelling

CourtNew York Court of General Sessions
Citation227 N.Y.S.2d 143,33 Misc.2d 735
PartiesThe PEOPLE of the State of New York v. Robert SNELLING, Defendant.
Decision Date10 April 1962

Frank S. Hogan, Dist. Atty., New York County (Edward M. Davidowitz, Asst. Dist. Atty.), for the People.

Robert Snelling, defendant, pro se.


This is a motion in the nature of a writ of error coram nobis.

The record discloses that on January 6, 1955, in a one count indictment, the defendant was charged with the crime of Murder in the First Degree in that 'the defendant in the County of New York, on or about December 20, 1954, wilfully, feloniously and of malice aforethought, struck and killed Mary Joyce with a blunt insturment'. On January 12, 1955, when the defendant was arraigned, the late Judge Schurman appointed John McKim Minton, Rudolph Stand and Matthew Brandenburg as defendant's counsel, and on the same date, the defendant, with his three court-assigned counsel by his side, pleaded not guilty to the indictment.

On March 9, 1955, before Judge Breslin, the defendant in open Court, with his three court-assigned counsel by his side, offered to plead guilty to the crime of Murder in the Second Degree. Upon the written recommendation of the District Attorney, Judge Breslin accepted that plea and the defendant thereupon withdrew the plea of not guilty theretofore interposed by him and pleaded guilty to the crime of Murder in the Second Degree. The pleading minutes on file indicate that the defendant admitted in open Court that on December 20, 1954, he participated with three confederates in the robbery of an apartment at 2049 Seventh Avenue, New York County, in the course of which, one Mary Joyce was assaulted by one of his confederates and subsequently died as a result of the injuries inflicted upon her; that while the defendant himself did not actually strike the fatal blow, he was there when she was beaten about the head by one of the others in the course of the robbery, and that he received $40 .00 out of the stolen money as his share of the proceeds of that robbery. Judge Breslin sentenced him to State prison for a term of not less than twenty years nor more than his natural life.

On this motion, the defendant urges several grounds, only one of which, however, merits any discussion by the Court.

The defendant contends that in view of the fact that the facts confessed to by him, as disclosed during his interrogation prior to his plea of guilty, constituted a felony murder, that his plea of guilty to the crime of Murder in the Second Degree 'was illegal'. He argues that the indictment charged him with common-law murder under Subdivision 1 of Section 1044 of the Penal Law, and that 'the Court modified the statute Sec. 1044 of the Penal Law to be read as under Sec. 1046 of the Penal Law'. This, the defendant contends, was illegal because 'the People failed in this process inasmuch as the evidence comprehensively ascertained the fact that petitioner did not kill said decedent, did not utilize any alleged blunt instrument and did not wilfully or with malice aforethought commit the crime'.

A writ of error coram nobis is a common-law writ of ancient origin, devised by the judiciary and used to bring before a court a judgment previously rendered by it, for the purpose of review or modification, on account of some error of fact and not of law, affecting the validity and regularity of the proceedings, and which was not brought into issue at the trial.

Where a petitioner alleges no fraud, misrepresentation, or deceit, he is not entitled to relief under coram nobis (People v. Langford, 206 Misc. 628, 631, 134 N.Y.S.2d 712, 715). Coram nobis may not be used to review errors of law. Such errors appear on the face of the record and are reviewable only on appeal from the judgment (People v. Brandau, 20 Misc.2d 333, 192 N.Y.S.2d 680; People v. Parker, 8 App.Div.2d 863, 186 N.Y.S.2d 787; People v. Fortson, 7 App.Div.2d 139, 141, 180 N.Y.S.2d 945, 947; People v. Waterman, 5 App.Div.2d 717, 168 N.Y.S.2d 819; People ex rel. Walker v. People, 3 App.Div.2d 623, 157 N.Y.S.2d 993; People v. Sidoti, 1 App.Div.2d 232, 233, 149 N.Y.S.2d 371, 372). Coram nobis is not available to correct an error of law and may not be used as a substitute for an appeal (People v. Whitman, 185 Misc. 459, 56 N.Y.S .2d 890; People v. Shapiro, 2 Misc.2d 462, 153 N.Y.S.2d 438, affirmed 3 App.Div.2d 740, 161 N.Y.S.2d 564, affirmed 3 N.Y.2d 203, 165 N.Y.S.2d 14, 144 N.E.2d 12; People v. Berry, 3 Misc.2d 984, 985, 151 N.Y.S.2d 888, 889; People v. Blair, 203 Misc. 553, 554, 118 N.Y.S.2d 405, 406).

Nor can the writ of error coram nobis be used to set aside a plea of guilty offered in open Court by a defendant who was represented by competent counsel, where no fraud is attributable to the People or to the Court (People v. Stryzewski, 19 Misc.2d 598, 196 N.Y.S.2d 337, affirmed 283 App.Div. 939, 130 N.Y.S.2d 879).

In the present case, the facts were all disclosed in open Court during the interrogation of the defendant by the Court prior...

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6 cases
  • People v. Bofill
    • United States
    • New York Court of General Sessions
    • June 12, 1962
    ...of guilty reduced from felony murder to second degree murder. Matter of Dodd v. Martin, 248 N.Y. 394, 162 N.E. 293; People v. Snelling, 33 Misc.2d 735, 227 N.Y.S.2d 143. See also, Code of Criminal Procedure, § 342-a. The same goes to a plea of guilty from first degree murder to any of the l......
  • People v. Robertson
    • United States
    • New York Court of General Sessions
    • June 12, 1962 open court by a defendant appearing by counsel, where no fraud is attributable to the Court or to the People. People v. Snelling, 33 Misc.2d 735, 227 N.Y.S.2d 143. See also, People v. Lyons, 19 Misc.2d 606, 196 N.Y.S.2d 446, holding that trickery and bad faith by counsel, are not legal g......
  • People ex rel. Fonseca v. LaVallee
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court Appellate Division
    • May 21, 1970
    ...with this contention. The acceptance of the plea was not an impermissible modification of the indictment by the court (People v. Snelling, 33 Misc.2d 735, 227 N.Y.S.2d 143) and the inconsistency between felony murder and second degree murder did not render the conviction invalid (People v. ......
  • Johansen v. Barry
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New York)
    • November 16, 1964
    ...facts upon which the original charge was founded. [People v. Griffin, 7 N.Y.2d 511, 199 N.Y.S.2d 674, 166 N.E.2d 684; People v. Snelling, 33 Misc.2d 735, 227 N.Y.S.2d 143]. It is expressly declared in section 155 of the Vehicle and Traffic Law that '[a] traffic infraction is not a crime * *......
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