People v. Sutton, 2016–07006

CourtNew York Supreme Court Appellate Division
Writing for the CourtSCHEINKMAN, P.J.
Citation125 N.Y.S.3d 739,184 A.D.3d 236
Decision Date17 June 2020
Docket NumberInd. No. 3032/14,2016–07006
Parties The PEOPLE, etc., Respondent, v. Darrius SUTTON, Appellant.

184 A.D.3d 236
125 N.Y.S.3d 739

The PEOPLE, etc., Respondent,
v.
Darrius SUTTON, Appellant.

2016–07006
Ind.
No. 3032/14

Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Department, New York.

Argued - May 6, 2019
June 17, 2020


Paul Skip Laisure, New York, NY (Charity L. Brady of counsel), for appellant.

Eric Gonzalez, District Attorney, Brooklyn, NY (Leonard Joblove and Keith Dolan of counsel; Ruby D. Andrade on the brief), for respondent.

ALAN D. SCHEINKMAN, P.J., LEONARD B. AUSTIN, JEFFREY A. COHEN, SYLVIA O. HINDS–RADIX, JJ.

OPINION & ORDER

SCHEINKMAN, P.J.

184 A.D.3d 237

INTRODUCTION:

On this appeal we hold that the defendant's purported waiver of the right to appeal is unenforceable because it was the court itself, as opposed to the People, that insisted upon the waiver, without setting forth any reason for doing so, and because the defendant received no benefit, discernible on this record, in exchange for relinquishment of the fundamental right to appeal. However, upon reviewing the defendant's appellate claims, we affirm the defendant's conviction on the merits.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND:

On March 26, 2014, two days before his 17th birthday, the defendant punched a 17–year–old female in the face and allegedly

184 A.D.3d 238

displayed a gun that he was carrying in the waistband of his pants. The complainant sustained a fractured jaw, and required a metal plate and several screws to hold the jaw in place for six months. For his actions, the defendant was charged in an indictment with assault in the second degree, attempted assault in the second degree, assault in the third degree, menacing in the second degree, menacing in the third degree, and harassment in the second degree. In a decision and order dated July 28, 2014, the Supreme Court, upon its review of the grand jury minutes, held that the evidence before the grand jury was legally sufficient to sustain the charges set forth in the indictment. The court ruled that the legal instructions given to the grand jury were adequate and proper. The court concluded that no reduction of any count in the indictment was warranted.

At a proceeding on March 9, 2015, the People stated that their offer was a plea of guilty to the top count of the indictment and a waiver of the right to appeal in

125 N.Y.S.3d 742

exchange for a youthful offender adjudication, a sentence consisting of a term of imprisonment of 1? to 4 years, and a full order of protection. However, the Supreme Court, citing the defendant's youth, stated that it intended to "undercut" the People's bargaining position by offering the defendant its own alternative deal. The court proposed that the defendant plead guilty to the top count of the indictment and enter an outpatient program operated by the Center for Alternative Sentencing and Employment Services (hereinafter CASES). The court posited that, if the defendant successfully completed the program, he would be adjudicated a youthful offender and receive a definite sentence of one year, which he had already served. The court's offer provided that, if the defendant did not successfully complete the program, he would receive a sentence of up to two years of imprisonment followed by two years of post release supervision, and a youthful offender adjudication would be considered but not promised. The People noted their objection to this plea offer. Defense counsel immediately stated that the defendant had authorized him to enter a plea in accordance with the court's promised disposition. The court then proceeded to conduct a plea colloquy.

The Supreme Court carefully examined the defendant to assure itself that the defendant understood that he was relinquishing his Boykin rights (see Boykin v. Alabama, 395 U.S. 238, 89 S.Ct. 1709, 23 L.Ed.2d 274 ), that he understood the plea and the sentence promised,

184 A.D.3d 239

and that he was voluntarily pleading guilty because he was in fact guilty. The court then elicited from the defendant that he had punched the complainant in the face and broken her jaw. At the conclusion of the allocution, the prosecutor stated that the allocution was acceptable to the People, whereupon the court stated that the plea was acceptable to the court.

At this juncture, the following occurred:

"[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: "I'm sorry, Your Honor, the People did hand over the waiver of the right to appeal, but the Court isn't going to require this?

"THE COURT: I'm not?

"[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: It's the Court's offer, not the People's offer.

"THE COURT: I'm requiring it.

"[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: Okay.

"THE COURT: Because it is part of the deal."

The Supreme Court proceeded to conduct a colloquy as to whether the defendant had signed the appeal waiver form provided by the People and had done so knowingly and voluntarily. The defendant acknowledged signing the form and having had sufficient time to discuss the matter with counsel before doing so. The court had the defendant acknowledge that he was waiving his right to appeal any issue that may arise from the case, including the sentence. The court had the defendant acknowledge his understanding that "a waiver of the right to appeal is not a legal requirement of every guilty plea, but part of the negotiations of this plea." At the conclusion of the colloquy, the court found that the defendant had made a knowing and voluntary waiver of his right to appeal and signed the appeal waiver form.1 The written waiver form advised the defendant that he had the right to appeal and "have the proceedings reviewed by an appellate court." The form provided that the defendant, "[a]s a condition of this particular plea," waived his "right to appeal [his] sentence and conviction."

The defendant failed to complete the CASES program because he did not attend

125 N.Y.S.3d 743

school, but at a proceeding on September 29, 2015, the Supreme Court gave the defendant the opportunity to complete an inpatient program. The defendant later absconded from the inpatient program, and a bench

184 A.D.3d 240

warrant was issued on January 8, 2016. The defendant was subsequently arrested and charged with marijuana possession. The defendant allegedly escaped from a transport van, ran several blocks, and attacked and repeatedly bit the pursuing police officer, leading to a new assault charge.

On June 23, 2016, the Supreme Court determined that the defendant had violated the terms of the plea agreement, denied the defendant youthful offender treatment, and sentenced him to two years of imprisonment followed by two years of postrelease supervision. The defendant appeals, contending that the court improvidently exercised its discretion in denying him youthful offender treatment, and that his sentence was excessive. The defendant cites, among other things, his youth, lack of a prior criminal record, a traumatic childhood, and a history of depression. The People contend that the defendant's claims are foreclosed by his waiver of the right to appeal and, in any event, without merit.

THE WAIVER OF THE RIGHT TO APPEAL:

The defendant contends that his purported waiver of the right to appeal is invalid because, among other things, the Supreme Court itself, as opposed to the People, insisted upon the waiver as a condition of its acceptance of the plea, and because the court did not discuss the waiver until after he had already fully admitted his guilt. The People defend the validity of the waiver, arguing that the decision of the Appellate Division, Third Department, in People v. Gilbert , 145 A.D.3d 1196, 43 N.Y.S.3d 556 disposes of the defendant's claim that the waiver is invalid because the Supreme Court insisted upon it.

While neither the People nor the defendant are compelled to participate in plea negotiations, plea bargaining is established as a vital part of our criminal justice system (see People v. Thomas, 34 N.Y.3d 545, 557–558, 122 N.Y.S.3d 226, 144 N.E.3d 970 ; People v. Seaberg, 74 N.Y.2d 1, 7–8, 543 N.Y.S.2d 968, 541 N.E.2d 1022 ). For the parties, achieving a settlement provides a prompt conclusion to litigation, avoids delay, and removes the risks and uncertainties of trials (see People v. Thomas, 34 N.Y.3d at 557–558, 122 N.Y.S.3d 226, 144 N.E.3d 970 ; People v. Seaberg, 74 N.Y.2d at 7, 543 N.Y.S.2d 968, 541 N.E.2d 1022 ; People v. Selikoff, 35 N.Y.2d 227, 232–233, 360 N.Y.S.2d 623, 318 N.E.2d 784 ). The accused is afforded the opportunity, as part of a plea bargain, to gain the benefit of a reduction in the charges brought and consequently more lenient punishment (see People v. Thomas, 34 N.Y.3d at 557–558, 122 N.Y.S.3d 226, 144 N.E.3d 970 ; People v. Selikoff, 35 N.Y.2d at 233–234, 360 N.Y.S.2d 623, 318 N.E.2d 784 ). Plea bargaining, when successful, conserves judicial resources and provides

184 A.D.3d 241

finality in criminal proceedings (see People v. Thomas, 34 N.Y.3d at 557–558, 122 N.Y.S.3d 226, 144 N.E.3d 970 ; People v. Tiger, 32 N.Y.3d 91, 101, ...

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10 practice notes
  • People v. Guerrero, 110405
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court Appellate Division
    • May 20, 2021
    ...and voluntarily waived his right to appeal. Neither of these arguments has merit. Unlike the situation presented in People v. Sutton, 184 A.D.3d 236, 125 N.Y.S.3d 739 (2d Dept. 2020), lv denied 35 N.Y.3d 1070, 129 N.Y.S.3d 385, 152 N.E.3d 1186 (2020), County Court did not fashion its own pl......
  • People v. Eduardo S., 2019–00382
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court Appellate Division
    • September 2, 2020
    ...from his appeal waiver, as the court had already accepted the defendant's plea and made its sentence promise" ( People v. Sutton, 184 A.D.3d 236, 245, 125 N.Y.S.3d 739 ). Under such circumstances and in the absence of a request by the People, "the court's insistence upon the execu......
  • People v. Adyl K., 2018–11569
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court Appellate Division
    • October 28, 2020
    ...the defendant had already admitted his guilt that the court "described" the waiver to the defendant (see People v. Sutton, 184 A.D.3d 236, 245, 125 N.Y.S.3d 739 ; People v. Artis, 177 A.D.3d 758, 759, 110 N.Y.S.3d 318 ; People v. Pressley, 116 A.D.3d 794, 795, 983 N.Y.S.2d 322 ). ......
  • People v. Chuan Mu Fu, 2018–04374
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court Appellate Division
    • August 12, 2020
    ...a waiver of the right to appeal, the defendant's purported waiver of the right to appeal is unenforceable (see People v. Sutton, 184 A.D.3d 236, 125 N.Y.S.3d 739 [2d Dept.] ; see also Penal Law § 1.05 ; People v. McConnell, 49 N.Y.2d 340, 346, 425 N.Y.S.2d 794, 402 N.E.2d 133 ; see generall......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
10 cases
  • People v. Guerrero, 110405
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court Appellate Division
    • May 20, 2021
    ...and voluntarily waived his right to appeal. Neither of these arguments has merit. Unlike the situation presented in People v. Sutton, 184 A.D.3d 236, 125 N.Y.S.3d 739 (2d Dept. 2020), lv denied 35 N.Y.3d 1070, 129 N.Y.S.3d 385, 152 N.E.3d 1186 (2020), County Court did not fashion its own pl......
  • People v. Eduardo S., 2019–00382
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court Appellate Division
    • September 2, 2020
    ...from his appeal waiver, as the court had already accepted the defendant's plea and made its sentence promise" ( People v. Sutton, 184 A.D.3d 236, 245, 125 N.Y.S.3d 739 ). Under such circumstances and in the absence of a request by the People, "the court's insistence upon the execu......
  • People v. Adyl K., 2018–11569
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court Appellate Division
    • October 28, 2020
    ...the defendant had already admitted his guilt that the court "described" the waiver to the defendant (see People v. Sutton, 184 A.D.3d 236, 245, 125 N.Y.S.3d 739 ; People v. Artis, 177 A.D.3d 758, 759, 110 N.Y.S.3d 318 ; People v. Pressley, 116 A.D.3d 794, 795, 983 N.Y.S.2d 322 ). ......
  • People v. Chuan Mu Fu, 2018–04374
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court Appellate Division
    • August 12, 2020
    ...a waiver of the right to appeal, the defendant's purported waiver of the right to appeal is unenforceable (see People v. Sutton, 184 A.D.3d 236, 125 N.Y.S.3d 739 [2d Dept.] ; see also Penal Law § 1.05 ; People v. McConnell, 49 N.Y.2d 340, 346, 425 N.Y.S.2d 794, 402 N.E.2d 133 ; see generall......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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