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Decisions

Second Department Reverses Conviction Because of Trial Attorney's Ineffectiveness

06/01/2016

Joel McCray was charged with second-degree robbery and related crimes.  The People alleged that he and an accomplice followed the complainant to her doorstep and forcibly stole her purse.  

The complainant testified that she had just reached her apartment door when she was approached by Mr. McCray and another person.  After Mr. McCray said that they were lost and the complainant began naming nearby streets, Mr. McCray “turned and walked past her.”  The complainant turned to enter her apartment, and “felt a hand grab . . . her face and pull her backwards to the ground.”  Although the complainant stated that Mr. McCray and the other person then “ran off together,” she never testified on direct examination that Mr. McCray was the person who grabbed her face or testified to “any affirmative act taken by [Mr. McCray] in furtherance of the crimes charged.”

On cross-examination, however, defense counsel elicited testimony from the complainant that Mr. McCray was the person who had grabbed her face.  Defense counsel then asked to impeach the complainant with her grand jury testimony.  Counsel asserted that, in that testimony, she had stated that she did not know who had grabbed her face. A review of the complainant’s grand jury testimony, however, established that she did not make such a statement. 

Citing these problems, as well as counsel's failure to object to numerous improper summation comments by the prosecutor, the Second Department held that counsel was ineffective and ordered a new trial.  

Samuel Brown briefed and argued the case on behalf of Appellate Advocates.