Appellate Division Grants New Trial in Murder Case Given Evidentiary Errors
October 19, 2016
Roger Thomas was convicted of second-degree murder at a trial where the sole witness to identify him had up until a few weeks prior to trial denied seeing the shooter. No physical or other evidence linked Mr. Thomas to the incident.
During trial, one of the People’s witnesses who was present testified that it was dark and she was unable to see the shooter. The prosecutor, however, impeached that witness with her grand jury testimony, in which she implicated Mr. Thomas. Defense counsel did not object to this or to voluminous hearsay evidence, which also implicated Mr. Thomas. The prosecutor argued in summation that the impeachment evidence constituted direct evidence of guilt and misstated some of the hearsay testimony.
In a decision dated October 19, 2016, the Appellate Division, Second Department, reversed Mr. Thomas’s conviction and remanded for a new trial on interest of justice grounds. It ruled that it was improper for the prosecutor to impeach her own witness and to cite to that impeachment evidence during summation as evidence in chief of Mr. Thomas’s guilt.
Jenin Younes briefed and argued the case in the Second Department.