People v. Stratton

Citation143 N.Y.S.2d 362,286 A.D. 323
PartiesThe PEOPLE of the State of New York, Respondent, v. John O. STRATTON, Appellant.
Decision Date07 July 1955
CourtNew York Supreme Court — Appellate Division

Michael J. Rano, Endicott (Harry S. Travis, Binghamton, of counsel), for defendant-appellant.

Robert E. Fischer, Dist. Atty. of Broome County, Binghamton, for respondent.


COON, Justice.

After a trial defendant has been convicted of the crime of criminal negligence for causing the death of a young woman by striking her with his automobile. The indictment specified that he was driving while intoxicated, and had defective brakes on his automobile. To indicate the vital importance of the principal question before us, it should be mentioned that the record discloses tht the real issue litigated was the question of defendant's intoxication.

Sufficient competent evidence was adduced at the trial to present a fair question of fact to a jury as to the defendant's guilt, but we are constrained to conclude that errors of a substantial and prejudicial nature invaded defendant's right to a fair trial.

After defendant's arrest and while he was in jail the police sent a doctor to examine him. The People called the doctor as a witness at the trial, and at a certain point in his testimony, the following ensued:

'I requested, as is the procedure, permission to take a----

'Mr. Travis: I object to this, your Honor, and call your Honor's attention to the fact that this has no bearing on the issue here. It is immaterial and irrelevant. It is no competent proof.

'Mr. Fischer: This has been anticipated, your Honor. We are offering this particular testimony merely for the purpose of showing that the man had a fair examination.

'The Court: Objection overruled.

'Mr. Travis: May I have an exception, please, and I would also move for a mistrial upon the District Attorney's assertion that this is offered solely to show that he had a fair examination.

'The Court: Motion denied.

'Mr. Travis: I ask that the Court instruct the jury to disregard the remark of counsel.

'The Court: Motion denied.

'Mr. Travis: Exception, please.

'(Continuation by the witness) I requested permission to take a specimen of his blood to determine the alcoholic content and permission was refused.

'Mr. Travis: I object to that, your Honor, and ask that the last pertaining to permission was refused be stricken out and the jury advised to disregard it.

'The Court: That may go out. He may state what the defendant said.

'Mr. Fischer: State what the defendant said, please.

'A. He said he would not allow me to take a blood specimen to determine the alcoholic content.

'The Court: At this time, I desire to instruct the jury and again request that you listen carefully to the instructions of the Court, this evidence is only admitted for the purpose of showing the extent of the examination conducted by the doctor. Also for the purpose of bearing on the credibility of the doctor's testimony, and as to the weight you will give to the doctor's testimony on the examination he conducted. I instruct the jury that this defendant or any person arrested under these circumstances has a constitutional right to refuse to submit to a blood test or permit a sample of blood to be taken. He has that right and the fact that the defendant did refuse to submit to such an examination or test must not be considered, and does not raise any presumption against him. It must not be considered as having any bearing on the question as to whether he was intoxicated or not. It is admitted only for the specified purpose that I have indicated.

'Mr. Travis: May I have an exception, please? And may I renew my objection on the same ground that we feel that this has no bearing on the issue and is no competent proof in this case.

'Q. Now, Doctor, to go over this again, he said that he was not in an accident, that he was not personally injured in any way and that he was not ill and had taken no medication? A. Yes, sir.

'Q. Proceed if you will, Doctor. A. I further asked him if he would allow this if I got his own doctor, and he said that it didn't make any difference.

'Mr. Travis: I move that the answer be stricken out. It has no bearing on the issue and I also move for a mistrial on the voluntary statement of the doctor.

'The Court: Motion denied.

'Mr. Travis: May I have an exception, please?'

That this was damning evidence against the defendant, when practically the sole issue was his intoxication, cannot be denied. The question is whether it was competent for any purpose. We think not.

The Legislature has provided that evidence of the alcohoic content of the blood may be received in evidence. Vehicle and Traffic Law, § 70, subd. 5. It has also recognized a persons's right to refuse the test. Vehicle and Traffic Law, § 71-a. The District Attorney concedes that this defendant had the...

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30 cases
  • State v. Bock, 8535
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Idaho
    • July 30, 1958
    ...Duckworth v. State, Okl.Cr.1957, 309 P.2d 1103; State v. Severson, N.D.1956, 75 N.W.2d 316; People v. Stratton, 1955, 286 App.Div. 323, 143 N.Y.S.2d 362. The New York case (Stratton) in part is based on the rule against self-incrimination as applied in that state. The opinion is from the ap......
  • Stewart v. United States, 12944.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • April 18, 1957 the evidence. 10 People v. Black, 1925, 317 Ill. 603, 148 N.E. 281, 287. 11 See People v. Stratton, 1955, 286 App. Div. 323, 143 N.Y.S.2d 362, 365-366; People v. McGee, 1914, 24 Cal.App. 563, 141 P. 1055, 12 Cf. People v. Duncan, supra note 8, which, though declaring reprehensible a pros......
  • Dudley v. State, 50448
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas. Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas
    • March 23, 1977
    ...conceive of no greater inconsistency." See also Howell v. State, 528 P.2d 1392 (Okl.Cr.1974), and People v. Stratton, 286 App.Div. 323, 143 N.Y.S.2d 362 (1955); People v. Paddock, 29 N.Y.2d 504, 323 N.Y.S.2d 976, 272 N.E.2d 486 In my opinion we have a Texas statute which grants an absolute ......
  • People v. Odum, 46
    • United States
    • New York Court of Appeals
    • May 3, 2018
    ...N.Y.S.2d 976, 272 N.E.2d 486 [1971] ; People v. Stratton, 1 N.Y.2d 664, 150 N.Y.S.2d 29, 133 N.E.2d 516 [1956], affg 286 App.Div. 323, 143 N.Y.S.2d 362 [3d Dept. 1955] ). Therefore, at the time the warnings were added to the statute, voluntariness was not a concern because a refusal could n......
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