People v. Wortham

CourtNew York Court of Appeals
Citation37 N.Y.3d 407,180 N.E.3d 516,159 N.Y.S.3d 352
Docket Number63
Parties The PEOPLE of the State of New York, Respondent, v. Tyrone WORTHAM, Appellant.
Decision Date23 November 2021

37 N.Y.3d 407
180 N.E.3d 516
159 N.Y.S.3d 352

The PEOPLE of the State of New York, Respondent,
Tyrone WORTHAM, Appellant.

No. 63

Court of Appeals of New York.

November 23, 2021

159 N.Y.S.3d 355

Janet E. Sabel, The Legal Aid Society, New York City (Angie Louie, William B. Carney, Andrew C. Fine and Terri S. Rosenblatt of counsel), for appellant.

Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., District Attorney, New York City (David M. Cohn and Alan Gadlin of counsel), for respondent.



37 N.Y.3d 411

On this appeal, we are first asked to determine whether a police officer's question to defendant regarding where he lived falls within the "pedigree exception" to the Miranda requirement. We conclude that it does. We nevertheless reverse and remit because no Frye hearing was held (see Frye v. United States, 293 F. 1013 [D.C. Cir. 1923] ) on the admissibility of statistical evidence generated by the forensic statistical tool (FST) developed by the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner (OCME), where it is alleged that defendant was a contributor to a multiple-source DNA profile.


In May 2011, police officers executed a search warrant at an apartment in Brooklyn.

180 N.E.3d 520
159 N.Y.S.3d 356

When the officers entered the apartment, defendant and his two young children were inside. Pursuant to police department policy, defendant was handcuffed. While still inside the apartment, a detective asked defendant his name, date of birth, address, height, and weight. Defendant stated that his children's mother let him stay at the apartment, motioning toward a bed in the living room. No Miranda warnings were given to defendant before those questions were asked. The detective asked defendant for his pedigree information before any contraband was found in the apartment. After defendant's departure from the apartment, the officers recovered weapons, drugs, and drug paraphernalia from a back bedroom. Defendant and a codefendant were jointly indicted and tried on several counts related to the possession of the firearms and controlled substances.

The admissibility of defendant's statement that he lived at the apartment was the subject of a pretrial suppression hearing. During that hearing, the detective who asked defendant for his "pedigree" information testified that it was the policy of the New York City Police Department to handcuff all adults found inside a location where a search warrant was to be executed, pat them down for weapons, ask them certain questions for identification purposes, and then transport them from the

37 N.Y.3d 412

search warrant location to the precinct or central booking. The questions typically included the person's name, date of birth, address, height, and weight. The detective testified that all adults found inside a searched location were asked those pedigree questions, regardless of whether contraband was ultimately found during the search, and the information was entered into the online booking system. If the individual was later arrested, the police would have pedigree information for the person under arrest. If that person was not later arrested, the information would still be entered into the online booking system in order to document that the individual had been in police custody at one point. The detective further testified that he followed this procedure with defendant. After the hearing, the suppression court ruled that defendant's statement that he lived in the apartment was admissible because it fell within the scope of the pedigree exception to the Miranda requirement.

Before trial, defendant moved to preclude expert testimony regarding the probability that he was a contributor to a multiple-source DNA sample, a statistic derived from the use of the FST, or, in the alternative, for a Frye hearing. The court denied defendant's motion without a Frye hearing. Defendant also moved for a severance on the eve of trial, which motion was denied. After a jury trial, defendant was convicted on all counts.

The Appellate Division affirmed the judgment ( 160 A.D.3d 431, 73 N.Y.S.3d 570 [1st Dept. 2018] ). The Court concluded that the pedigree exception to Miranda applied and that the trial court properly denied defendant's motion to suppress his statement (see id. at 431, 73 N.Y.S.3d 570 ). The Appellate Division further concluded that defendant's severance motion and his motion for a Frye hearing were properly denied (see id. at 432, 73 N.Y.S.3d 570 ).

A Judge of this Court granted defendant leave to appeal ( 34 NY3d 940 [2019] ). We now reverse.


We first address defendant's contention that his suppression motion should have been granted because the pedigree exception to Miranda did not apply.

159 N.Y.S.3d 357
180 N.E.3d 521


Miranda warnings (see Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 [1966] ) are required before a person in custody is subjected to

37 N.Y.3d 413

interrogation by the police (see Rhode Island v. Innis, 446 U.S. 291, 297–302, 100 S.Ct. 1682, 64 L.Ed.2d 297 [1980] ; People v. Paulman, 5 N.Y.3d 122, 129, 800 N.Y.S.2d 96, 833 N.E.2d 239 [2005] ).1 " ‘The term "interrogation" under Miranda refers not only to express questioning, but also to any words or actions on the part of the police (other than those normally attendant to arrest and custody) that the police should know are reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response’ " ( Paulman, 5 N.Y.3d at 129, 800 N.Y.S.2d 96, 833 N.E.2d 239, quoting People v. Ferro, 63 N.Y.2d 316, 322, 482 N.Y.S.2d 237, 472 N.E.2d 13 [1984], cert denied 472 U.S. 1007, 105 S.Ct. 2700, 86 L.Ed.2d 717 [1985] ; see Innis, 446 U.S. at 300–302, 100 S.Ct. 1682 ).

Pedigree questions, also sometimes referred to as "booking questions," typically ask a suspect for identifying information such as name, date of birth, and address. These questions constitute custodial interrogation when they are posed to a suspect in custody (see People v. Rodney, 85 N.Y.2d 289, 292, 624 N.Y.S.2d 95, 648 N.E.2d 471 [1995], citing Pennsylvania v. Muniz, 496 U.S. 582, 601–602, 110 S.Ct. 2638, 110 L.Ed.2d 528 [1990] [plurality opinion]). Nevertheless, we have recognized an exception to Miranda for pedigree questions (see Rodney, 85 N.Y.2d at 292, 624 N.Y.S.2d 95, 648 N.E.2d 471 ; People v. Rodriquez, 39 N.Y.2d 976, 978, 387 N.Y.S.2d 110, 354 N.E.2d 850 [1976] ; People v. Rivera, 26 N.Y.2d 304, 309, 310 N.Y.S.2d 287, 258 N.E.2d 699 [1970] ). We explored the genesis and scope of the pedigree exception in Rodney. "The exception derives from the essential purpose of Miranda —to protect defendants from self-incrimination in response to questions posed as part of the investigation of a crime, as distinguished from noninvestigative inquiries" ( Rodney, 85 N.Y.2d at 292, 624 N.Y.S.2d 95, 648 N.E.2d 471 ). Pedigree questions are an exception to Miranda —that is, a defendant's response to such questions is "not suppressible even when obtained in violation of Miranda "—when the questions are " ‘reasonably related to the police's administrative concerns’ " ( id. at 292–293, 624 N.Y.S.2d 95, 648 N.E.2d 471, quoting Muniz, 496 U.S. at 601–602, 110 S.Ct. 2638 ).

As a threshold matter, pedigree questions must be reasonably related to the police's administrative concerns for the pedigree exception to Miranda to apply (see id. ). The exception may not apply in certain situations, however, even if the question is reasonably related to police administrative concerns. As we stated in Rodney, "the mere claim by the People that an admission was made in response to a question posed solely as an administrative concern does not automatically qualify that admission for the pedigree exception to Miranda or exempt the People from the necessity of supplying a CPL 710.30 notice" ( id. at 293, 624 N.Y.S.2d 95, 648 N.E.2d 471 ).

37 N.Y.3d 414

Our decision in Rodney has engendered some confusion regarding when the pedigree exception will apply. In that decision, the Court stated that the pedigree exception would not apply "if the questions, though facially appropriate, are likely to elicit incriminating admissions because of the circumstances of the particular

180 N.E.3d 522
159 N.Y.S.3d 358

case," or, stated another way, if the question is "reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response from [the] defendant" ( id. at 293–294, 624 N.Y.S.2d 95, 648 N.E.2d 471 ). We also stated in Rodney, however, that the pedigree exception applied in that case because the question was "not a disguised attempt at investigatory interrogation" ( id. at 294, 624 N.Y.S.2d 95, 648 N.E.2d 471 ). Rodney requires clarification.

We agree with the Second Circuit's view that "[w]hether the information gathered turns...

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    • New York County Court
    • March 15, 2022
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