Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Right To Present Evidence of Threats by Complainant is Limited

In People v Valentine 2008 NY Slip Op 01231 [2/8/08] the Court affirmed holdings restricting the ability of a defendant to have a jury consider evidence of the complainant’s hostility towards the defendant

We reject the contention of defendant that the court violated his constitutional right of confrontation by refusing to admit in evidence a tape recording of threats made against him by his ex-wife. "[T]he extent to which an examination may be pursued for the purpose of proving the hostility of a witness is within the discretion of the court" (People v Sutherland, 280 AD2d 622, 623, lv denied 96 NY2d 835; see also People v Jones, 37 AD3d 1111, lv denied 8 NY3d 986). "If bias or interest has been fully explored through other means . . ., or the precluded area involved cumulative matter already presented . . ., there generally has been no infringement of the right of confrontation" (People v Chin, 67 NY2d 22, 29; see People v Corby, 6 NY3d 231, 235-236) and, here, the court afforded defendant a sufficient opportunity to establish the hostility of the witness. Contrary to the further contention of defendant, the court properly permitted his ex-wife to testify concerning their marital discord to explain or clarify issues brought out on cross-examination (see generally People v Mateo, 2 NY3d 383,425, cert denied 542 US 946).

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