The postings below present recent noteworthy CAL court appearances and case outcomes. Please use the Contact Us inquiry form if you'd like further information about any of these cases.

On March 19, 2019, the Appellate Division, First Department, held that the trial court erred in finding that our client, S.H., had no standing to move for the suppression of the weapon for which he was charged with possession simply because it was recovered from the ground.  The Court further held that the trial court erred when it precluded defense counsel from cross-examining a police officer with respect to a settled federal civil case against him for false arrest.  The Court therefore remanded S.H.’s case for a new determination of the suppression issue and for a new trial.

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.

On January 10, 2019, the Appellate Division, First Department reversed Islam Ataroua’s murder conviction and 18-to-life sentence, finding that the trial judge’s refusal to instruct the jury on the statutory definition of “deprive” as part of the definition of larceny, which was the predicate offense for the felony murder charge, was harmful error.  David Klem represented Mr. Ataroua on appeal.
On December 27, 2018, the Appellate Division, First Department, reversed our client T.V.’s convictions for tampering with physical evidence and seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, and dismissed the charges against him. In May, the First Department ruled that T.V. had a reasonable expectation of privacy in a public single-use restroom, such that police officers needed probable cause to justify their entry into the restroom. Because the suppression court had ruled that no such expectation of privacy existed, that court did not determine whether probable cause existed. In reversing the suppression court’s ruling on the reasonable expectation of privacy, the First Department remitted the case to the lower court for a finding on probable cause. Upon remittal, the suppression court ruled that the officers did not have probable cause and that the entry into the private restroom violated T.V.’s constitutional right to be free from unlawful searches. The First Department affirmed the new probable cause determination and dismissed the charges. T.V. was represented by Jacqueline Meese-Martinez

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 13, 2018, the Appellate Division, First Department, found that CAL client D.T. was wrongfully sentenced as a second violent felony offender upon his conviction of second-degree murder. Because it was impossible to say whether the court’s misapprehension of the sentencing range affected the sentence it imposed, the appeals court remanded the case for resentencing. Kate Skolnick and Samuel Steinbock-Pratt represented D.T. on appeal.

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.
The Appellate Division, First Department, reversed D.H’s conviction for first-degree robbery and remanded D.H.’s case for a new trial.  The Appellate Division held that the trial court should have granted D.H.’s request to charge the lesser included offense of third-degree robbery.  Because there was a reasonable view of the evidence, taken in the light most favorable to D.H., that the property was not stolen through the use of or the threatened use of a knife, the lesser included offense should have been charged.  The jury could have reasonably concluded that the complainant was mistaken as to the weapon involved.  In addition, the Appellate Division held that the trial court should have granted D.H.’s request for an adverse inference charge as to surveillance photos taken from the complainant’s livery cab where the robbery occurred.  The NYPD collected the photos, but destroyed all but a few of them, which were introduced at trial.  The Appellate Division found that both errors affected the jury’s opportunity to consider whether the People met their burden of proof as to the weapon involved in the robbery. Allison Kahl represented D.H. on appeal.
In People v. Suazo, the Court of Appeals held that a noncitizen defendant who demonstrates that a charged crime carries the potential penalty of deportation is entitled to a jury trial even if the potential incarceratory sentence is less than six months, the presumptive dividing line between serious and petty offenses under the Sixth Amendment. New York City defendants, unlike those in the rest of the State (and much of the country), are not statutorily entitled to jury trials if they are charged with nothing more serious than class-B misdemeanors. CPL 340.40(1). The Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial does not automatically attach to those charged with class-B misdemeanors, because the maximum Penal Law sentence is 90 days’ incarceration. Under the Sixth Amendment, crimes with a maximum sentence of six months or less are presumptively not entitled to a jury trial. CAL argued, and the Court agreed, that the crimes for which Mr. Suazo was charged—class-B misdemeanors—were nonetheless serious within the meaning of the Sixth Amendment because they might cause him to be deported: defendant “met his burden of establishing that the crimes carry an additional penalty beyond incarceration—namely, deportation—which he contends is a sufficiently severe penalty to rebut the presumption that the crimes are petty for Sixth Amendment purposes.