Friday, September 30, 2011

Frank Sterling and the Denial of a Motion for DNA Testing

In an earlier post today, I wrote about Mark Christie pled guilty this week to the murder for which an innocent man, Frank Sterling, had served 18 years in prison, prior to his exoneration (see). As I discussed, one of the many reasons it took so long to establish Frank Sterling's actual innocence is that the trial court denied a motion pursuant to CPL 440.30(1-a), for DNA testing. Then, compounding the problem, the Appellate Division, Fourth Department affirmed this ruling (37 AD3d 1158[4th Dept 2007]), denying the innocent Mr. Sterling access to the evidence which, when eventually obtained, helped prove his innocence.

So it was kind of shocking to see that in People v Woodrich (4th dept 9/30/11) the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, cited its decision in Sterling as the authority for rejection another inmates' motion for DNA testing:
County Court properly denied the motion “because defendant failed to establish that there was a reasonable probability that, had those items been tested [further] and had the results been admitted at trial, the verdict would have been more favorable to defendant” (People v Sterling, 37 AD3d 1158).

1 comment:

  1. There you go again, looking at things from the wrong perspective. From the People's perspective (which, of course, is the observation tower in which the Court sits), DNA testing is downright DANGEROUS to the finality of convictions. Sometimes it leads to the exposure of wrongful convictions, reversals, and - dare we say it out loud? - the suggestion that the government and might be, once in a blue moon, maybe just the teensy-weensyest bit wrong. See, there, we said it and the pillars of society did NOT crumble, cats did NOT lie down with dogs, sheep and goats, wheat and chaff did NOT intermingle.

    Now if only the Court (or whichever pool clerk is drafting decisions like this one) could make the same leap. A good start might be actually reading its own decisions. Or maybe the newspaper.