The postings below present recent noteworthy CAL court appearances and case outcomes. Please use the
On February 28, the Appellate Division, First Department, held, vacated CAL client A.T.’s conviction for unlawful possession of a weapon. The unlawful possession of ammunition provision provides that “[i]t shall be unlawful for any person not authorized to possess a pistol or revolver within the city of New York to possess pistol or revolver ammunition[.]” No appellate court in New York had addressed whether the italicized language meant that the People had the burden of proving that defendants charged under this provision did not possess pistol or revolver licenses, or whether defendants were required to offer proof that they had licenses in order to defeat the charge. The First Department agreed with us that the plain text of the provision and New York law governing statutory construction required the People to prove that A.T. was not authorized to possess a pistol or revolver within New York City, which the People had not shown in A.T.’s case. A.T. was represented on appeal by Scott H. Henney.
The Appellate Division, First Department, reversed LT’s convictions finding ineffective assistance of trial counsel. The case turned on whether LT was intoxicated at the time of the vehicular accident at issue, and there was a serious issue about the accuracy of the final Intoxilyzer reading, which conflicted with an earlier reading showing no intoxication. Counsel prejudicially failed to consult with and produce an appropriate expert on breath and blood alcohol analysis to rebut the People's proof. And his reason for not calling an expert---LT’s inability to pay for one---constituted constitutionally deficient performance under settled U.S. Supreme Court standards. John Vang represented LT in the 440 proceedings and on appeal.
M.R.’s second-degree murder conviction and 25-years-to-life sentence was vacated following a lengthy C.P.L. 440.10 hearing. The hearing evidence, which included extensive expert testimony, established that M.R. had a long history of complex trauma and domestic violence at the hands of her co-defendant, who forced her participation in the murder. Despite the mitigating psychological evidence, M.R.’s trial attorney failed to present any evidence of the abuse developed by M.R.’s two previous attorneys to support a duress defense. He also did not consult with M.R. about whether she wanted to present the affirmative duress defense. The motion court agreed that these failures violated M.R.’s constitutional rights. Alexandra Mitter and Claudia Trupp represent M.R.
On December 5, the Appellate Term, First Department, reversed J.W.’s convictions for third-degree sexual abuse and forcible touching, suppressed unconstitutionally obtained evidence, and remanded J.W.’s case for a new trial. Before J.W.’s trial, the trial court held that he was subjected to an unduly suggestive show-up procedure near the scene of the alleged crimes. Then, exclusively on the hearsay testimony of a responding officer, the trial court held that, despite the unduly suggestive show-up procedure, the complainant had a basis for identifying J.W. in court. The complainant did not testify at the pre-trial hearing to establish that basis, however. This was reversible error.In addition, the Appellate Term held that the police unconstitutionally trespassed into J.W.’s apartment, where the police stepped across his threshold without a warrant, invitation, or exigent circumstances, and then began questioning him. The Appellate Term suppressed all of the statements J.W. made in his apartment as fruits of that unconstitutional trespass. Scott H. Henney represented J.W. on appeal.
CAL Attorney Alex Ferlise authored an article on the policing of low-level offenses published for the New York State Bar Association. The article, Summons or Arrest?, looks at the inconsistent way in which low level offenses are enforced in New York City. Some people are arrested, processed, and detained where, under similar facts, another person is simply given a summons. By prioritizing issuing summons for low level offenses rather than making arrests, the city can enforce the law without the enormous expenditure of resources and negative collateral consequences associated with arrests.
CAL's Books Beyond Bars initiative joined a host of other books-to-prisoners organizations to file an amicus brief with the United States Supreme Court. The amicus urges the Court to decide whether the Florida Department of Corrections’ blanket ban of the widely-circulated publication Prison Legal News violates the First Amendment. Access the amicus brief on the Supreme Court's website.
We join our community in expressing our deepest regret over the untimely passing of Charles “Chas” Ransom on October 22, 2017. Though paroled for less than three months after serving 33 years in prison, he already was a beloved member of the re-entry community. Having begun his advocacy work while incarcerated, Chas was involved in various projects, including founding the Lifers and Longtermers Organization at Otisville Correctional Facility. As the Lifers President, he coordinated their annual Parole Summit, from which launched the National Lawyers Guild’s Parole Preparation Project, where volunteers prepare incarcerated individuals serving life sentences for their upcoming Parole Board appearances. In recent weeks, he had gained employment at Appellate Advocates as a Re-entry Program Associate. During his brief time as a returning citizen, he quickly became an integral part of CAL’s re-entry services, serving as a mentor and source of inspiration.
On May 18, 2017, several current and former members of the CAL staff were featured as guest speakers at the Brooklyn Reentry Consortium, focusing on the specific challenges that persons convicted of sex offenses face upon release into the community. CAL's resident social worker Susannah Karlin and Senior Appellate Counsel Lauren Springer both had the opportunity to speak on their areas of expertise, as did former CAL staff attorney Jill Sanders. The consortium was cosponsored by CAL and organized in collaboration with the Kings County Reentry Task Force -- a joint venture between the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, the NYS Department of Corrections & Community Supervision, and the NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services to provide support for certain adults transitioning from incarceration back into Brooklyn’s communities.
On March 1, 2017, CAL had the pleasure of hosting a fundraiser benefiting the Immigrant Defense Project. CAL's Robin Nichinsky and Mark Zeno were honored for their work representing immigrant clients seeking post-conviction relief in partnership with IDP. The event featured sales of artworks by the Brooklyn Waterfront Artist Collective, which are on rotational display in CAL's office space at 120 Wall Street. Many thanks to all who participated in making the evening such a success for IDP and the featured artists.
CAL is proud to announce that, on January 28, 2017, Attorney-in-Charge Robert S. Dean was named a Fellow of the New York Bar Foundation. Fellows are nominated by peers and recognized for distinguished achievement, dedication to the legal profession, and commitment to the organized bar and service to the public. As Emily F. Franchina, Chair of the Fellows, stated, "Being a Fellow of the New York Bar Foundation is an honor. Fellows represent one percent of the New York State Bar Association membership. Being nominated and elected is a notable achievement."
On August 15th, CAL welcomed Marianne Yang as a supervising attorney and co-director of the recently renamed Immigrant Justice Project, formerly known as the Padilla Project. Marianne brings a wealth of knowledge at the intersection of immigration and criminal law from her experience at IDP and Brooklyn Defender Services. She looks forward to working with fellow project co-director Robin Nichinsky on expanding the breadth and depth of CAL's post-conviction advocacy for clients facing immigration consequences.
In July, CAL welcomed both John Santoro and Maya Hart as new Client Advocates. Maya graduated from Williams College in June and John graduated from Columbia University in May. They will be joining current Client Advocate Erika Parry in the north wing of the office, and they look forward to supporting CAL's appellate work as well as enchancing our mission of holistic advocacy and client services.
On June 11, 2015, CAL's social worker, Susannah Karlin, and CAL SORA specialist Jill Sanders, did a presentation at the bi-monthly meeting of the Bronx Re-entry Task Force. Their presentation dealt with sex offender registration and the challenges these persons face when re-entering their communities. After a 10 minute presentation, Susannah and Jill fielded nearly an hour of questions about the ins-and-outs of the sex offender registration process, how sex offender residency restrictions effect communities, and how to dispel the myths surrounding “stranger danger” and the rates of sexual recidivism. The presentation helped give members of the re-entry community important information about the topics discussed.
On January 24, 2013, CAL Attorney-in-Charge Robert S. Dean received the New York State Bar Association's 2012 award for Outstanding Appellate Practitioner. The award was established in 2003, to recognize "outstanding advocacy, protection of due process and the public welfare, and the integrity of the judicial system."
CAL Senior Supervising Attorney Abigail Everett was chosen to receive New York County Lawyers' Association 2012 Public Service Award. United States Attorney for the Southern District, Preeta Bharara, presented the award at the September 12, 2012 ceremony.
See the shout-out to CAL in the first report issued by the National Registry of Exonerations in the United States 1989-2012, a joint project of the University of Michigan Law School and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University Law School. The report details the 873 individual exonerations in the United States from January 1989 through February 2012. CAL's Justice First Project provided statistics to Professor Sam Gross on its cases over the course of a number of years.