Notable Decisions and Other News

Decisions

New Trial in Robbery Case Because of Jury Note Error

July 2, 2015

The defendant was charged with second-degree robbery.  During deliberations, the jury sent a note requesting a readback of the testimony offered by appellant’s two alibi witnesses, and later sent a note indicating it had reached a verdict. The court did not respond to the jury’s request for a readback, but brought the jury into the courtroom, acknowledged receipt of the notes, and immediately accepted the jury’s verdict.

The Appellate Division held that the lower court’s handling of the jury note violated the procedure set forth in People v. O’Rama, since defense counsel was not alerted, on the record and outside the presence of the jury, to the contents of the note or the court’s intended response.  The court found that counsel had no opportunity to ask the court to alter its course in taking the verdict, because “he learned of the court’s response at the same time the jury heard it.  The court reversed the defendant’s conviction and ordered a new trial.  

Elizabeth Budnitz briefed and argued the case for Appellate Advocates.