People v. Williams

CourtNew York County Court
Writing for the CourtALBERT M. ROSENBLATT; Wozniak
Citation97 Misc.2d 24,410 N.Y.S.2d 978
Decision Date28 November 1978
PartiesThe PEOPLE of the State of New York, Plaintiff, v. Thomas WILLIAMS, charged as a Juvenile Offender, Defendant.

Page 978

410 N.Y.S.2d 978
97 Misc.2d 24
The PEOPLE of the State of New York, Plaintiff,
v.
Thomas WILLIAMS, charged as a Juvenile Offender, Defendant.
Dutchess County Court.
Nov. 28, 1978.

Page 979

John R. King, Dutchess County Dist. Atty. (Bridget R. Rahilly, Poughkeepsie, of counsel), for plaintiff.

William J. Ciolko, Dutchess County Public Defender (James R. Brown, Poughkeepsie, of counsel), for defendant.

ALBERT M. ROSENBLATT, Judge.

At issue is the constitutionality of certain provisions of the Juvenile Offender Law of 1978. (See, generally, L.1978, ch. 481)

The legislation, among other things, lowers the age of criminal responsibility for certain violent crimes, by creating a class of "Juvenile Offenders," (Penal Law Sec. 10.00(18); L.1978, ch. 481, Sec. 27, eff. September 1, 1978), whose cases are to be treated in accordance with a host of procedural statutes, including provisions contemplating retention of cases within the criminal court system, or their removal to Family Court.

The defendant at bar is a fourteen year old who was charged upon a felony complaint in the Town of Pawling, Dutchess County, with entering the home of an 82 year old woman, and with robbing and raping her. He now stands indicted for two counts of first degree burglary (class B felonies, first degree rape (a class B felony), and second degree robbery (a class C felony). These offenses all now fall within the purview of Penal Law Section 10.00(18) and Penal Law Section 30.00 (L.1978, ch. 481, Sec. 28) which, by abolishing the infancy defense for 14 and 15 year olds charged with these felonies, authorize their criminal prosecution.

Subject to certain exceptions not here present, the local criminal court, upon the defendant's arraignment, was authorized to enter an order, pursuant to CPL 180.75(4)(a), removing the action to Family Court, for further proceedings under new CPL Article 725 (L.1978, ch. 481, Sec. 44).

The pertinent removal section reads as follows:

4. Notwithstanding the provisions of subdivisions two and three of this section, (a) the court, on motion of any party or on its own motion may, and shall, at the request of the district attorney, order removal of an action, except one involving a complaint charging a juvenile offender with murder in the second degree, or an armed felony as defined in subdivision forty-one of section 1.20 of this chapter, to the family court pursuant to the provisions of article seven hundred twenty-five of this chapter, if it is determined that to do so would be in the interests of justice.

The Town Court (Ronald Wozniak, J.) denied the defendant's application for removal.

The defendant is now challenging the constitutionality of Section 180.75 and the proceedings conducted thereunder, as a denial of due process and equal protection.

Page 980

The relevant constitutional issues involve the defendant's attack upon the subject removal statute itself, claiming that Section 180.75(4)(a) suffers from "a lack of provisions for a hearing and of standards to guide the Court's determination" for removal or retention. The statute authorizes removal of the action to the Family Court "if it is determined that to do so would be In the interests of justice." (Emphasis supplied)

Moreover, the arraigning court is empowered to conduct "such inquiry as it deems necessary" (CPL 180.75(5); L.1978, ch. 481, Sec. 33).

The defendant was represented by counsel, who was present at the arraignment and hearing in the Pawling Town Court on September 12, 1978. At the inception of those proceedings, the new law was specifically invoked. Assistant District Attorney Paul Sullivan stated:

What we are dealing with is an offense that occurred after September 1, 1978; therefore we find that the new statute that was passed by the Senate and Assembly, and went into effect September 1st, should be controlling. That statute made certain changes in the Criminal Procedure Law, the Penal Law, the Executive Law, and the Family Court Act, especially with respect to the treatment of individuals that have been handled as juveniles in the Family Court prior to September 1st, 1978. It appears now that a hearing must be held by the local criminal court, and that is our purpose in the hearing today, and inquiry must be made by the court as to whether or not this case should stay within the adult court and the individual be treated as an adult, and that this case be referred to the adult section of the criminal court. The charges that have been brought in this court are felonies that would fall under the section. The question also before the court is that no changes have been made by this statute as to the defendant's right to a preliminary hearing. Not only must the court make an inquiry as to whether or not this defendant's action is to stay in the adult court, but he also has the right to the preliminary hearing. It is both the inquiry and the preliminary hearing that are before the court. (Transcript, p. 3).

The defendant's attorney then asked that the proceedings be closed "pursuant to Section 720.15 of the Criminal Procedure Law." He also argued that "It is not until after the testimony at this hearing that a determination is made whether or not to submit the case to the Family Court or to elevate the case to a superior court." (p. 6).

Judge Wozniak said that he was concerned with "whether or not the defendant should be treated as an adult or as a youth," (p. 9) and decided to conduct the proceedings in private (p. 10), apparently to preserve such confidentiality as would occur in the Family Court were he to decide to order removal.

The defendant was then arraigned (p. 12) and a hearing was held, at which the People presented sworn proof, by calling the victim, who detailed the crimes, and identified the defendant (pp. 14-19). The defendant's attorney was then given the right to cross-examine the victim, which he did (pp. 19-37). Redirect and recross-examination ensued (pp. 39-42), and the court then asked the defendant if he wished to testify (p. 42). He declined, following which the prosecutor asked the court to deny removal to Family Court and to find reasonable cause to hold the defendant for the Grand Jury (p. 42).

The defendant's attorney specifically urged removal, "in the interests of justice" under CPL 180.75(4), citing the defendant's age and lack of prior record (p. 43).

Judge Wozniak found proof enough to hold the defendant for the Grand Jury and specifically found that the case was of a type fit for criminal prosecution rather than Family Court adjudication. He referred to the violent nature of the crime, the proof, and the 82 year old rape victim. At no time did the defendant's attorney challenge the procedure or the court's ruling by which removal was rejected. This is significant not because there is a claim of waiver advanced or adopted, but because the record

Page 981

utterly refutes any claim that a removal hearing or inquiry was not held.

The Court will therefore, nonetheless, consider the contention, raised after indictment, that the removal provisions of Section 180.75(4) are unconstitutional as written, or as applied by the arraigning court.

In statutory and constitutional terms, the question is whether a determination to retain or remove "in the interests of justice" is constitutionally sufficient to afford the defendant due process, and whether the proceedings comported with the statute.

Clearly, the nature of the inquiry was identified. It was adversarial, counselled, and included confrontation. The defendant was afforded, but rejected the right to testify and submit proof. At the conclusion an express statutory adjudication was made in the presence of all parties and attorneys. The defendant offered no witnesses although invited to do so. Under these circumstances, his claim that no hearing was held is incomprehensible and must be repudiated.

Be that as it may, the critical point is whether the statute, because it posits removal "in the interests of justice" with no further standards, can abide due process and equal protection criteria.

Upon oral argument, the court expressly asked defense counsel whether he is asserting that the state lacks power to lower the age of criminal responsibility to age 14 for the offenses charged. That argument was disclaimed by the defense, and it was averred that the challenge rests on procedural due process grounds; that CPL Section 180.75(4) is standardless and that the proceedings in the local criminal court were violative of those constitutional rights. 1

In Kent v. United States, 383 U.S. 541, 86 S.Ct. 1045, 16 L.Ed.2d 84, the Supreme Court, on Due Process and Sixth Amendment grounds, vacated an order by which the District of Columbia Juvenile Court waived jurisdiction over a 16 year old defendant, and dispatched the case to the United States District Court for trial, in violation of the defendant's right to counsel, absent any inquiry, while citing no reasons for the removal. The Supreme Court stated that the proceedings took place in an atmosphere affording the defendant "less protection than is accorded to adults suspected of criminal offenses," in a cause determined "in isolation and without the participation or any representation of the child," and in "total disregard of a motion for a hearing filed by counsel," "resulting in the defendant's transfer to a jail along with adults," all in violation of a removal statute which requires a "full investigation" (D.C.Code Sec. 11-914 (1961); Sec. 11-1553 (1965)).

In every material respect, New York's statute, and the proceedings held thereunder in the case at bar, differ substantially from Kent.

1. The defendant here was represented by a public defender from the outset. There was no Sixth Amendment deprivation by way of right to counsel, or to confrontation. The defendant was accorded the right to cross-examine, to testify, and to call witnesses (p. 42).

2. Unlike in Kent, the court...

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5 practice notes
  • People v. Lugo
    • United States
    • New York City Court
    • January 25, 1979
    ...the expediency, wisdom or propriety of its action or matter within its powers." McKinney's Sec. 73 Also, People & C. v. Thomas William, 410 N.Y.S.2d 978, opinion by J. Rosenblatt, Dutchess County It would indeed by naive for this defendant or any other defendant similarly situated to believ......
  • People v. Epakchi, No. 19
    • United States
    • New York Court of Appeals
    • April 1, 2021
    ...into the fabric of New York's judicial system and extends far beyond the power to dismiss accusatory instruments (see People v. Williams, 97 Misc.2d 24, 31, 410 N.Y.S.2d 978 [N.Y. Co. Ct. 1978] ["Legislative enactments permitting courts to make a variety of determinations ‘in the interests ......
  • People v. Epakchi, No. 19
    • United States
    • New York Court of Appeals
    • April 1, 2021
    ...into the fabric of New York's judicial system and extends far beyond the power to dismiss accusatory instruments (see People v. Williams, 97 Misc.2d 24, 31, 410 N.Y.S.2d 978 [N.Y. Co. Ct. 1978] ["Legislative enactments permitting courts to make a variety of determinations ‘in the interests ......
  • People v. Joseph P.
    • United States
    • New York Justice Court
    • October 22, 1980
    ...procedure process has over thirty-five (35) provisions for determinations to be made in the interests of justice. See People v. Williams, 97 Misc.2d 24, 31, 32, 410 N.Y.S.2d 978. The dismissal in the interest of justice has a special status different from the other determinations in the int......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
5 cases
  • People v. Lugo
    • United States
    • New York City Court
    • January 25, 1979
    ...the expediency, wisdom or propriety of its action or matter within its powers." McKinney's Sec. 73 Also, People & C. v. Thomas William, 410 N.Y.S.2d 978, opinion by J. Rosenblatt, Dutchess County It would indeed by naive for this defendant or any other defendant similarly situated to believ......
  • People v. Epakchi, No. 19
    • United States
    • New York Court of Appeals
    • April 1, 2021
    ...into the fabric of New York's judicial system and extends far beyond the power to dismiss accusatory instruments (see People v. Williams, 97 Misc.2d 24, 31, 410 N.Y.S.2d 978 [N.Y. Co. Ct. 1978] ["Legislative enactments permitting courts to make a variety of determinations ‘in the interests ......
  • People v. Epakchi, No. 19
    • United States
    • New York Court of Appeals
    • April 1, 2021
    ...into the fabric of New York's judicial system and extends far beyond the power to dismiss accusatory instruments (see People v. Williams, 97 Misc.2d 24, 31, 410 N.Y.S.2d 978 [N.Y. Co. Ct. 1978] ["Legislative enactments permitting courts to make a variety of determinations ‘in the interests ......
  • People v. Joseph P.
    • United States
    • New York Justice Court
    • October 22, 1980
    ...procedure process has over thirty-five (35) provisions for determinations to be made in the interests of justice. See People v. Williams, 97 Misc.2d 24, 31, 32, 410 N.Y.S.2d 978. The dismissal in the interest of justice has a special status different from the other determinations in the int......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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