Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Is 24 hours reasonable notice of the Grand Jury presentment under CPL 190.50?

In People v. Misaiah Hymes, Case No. 1247; KA 10-01590 decided November 21, 2014 by the 4th Department, the defendant appealed from a judgment convicting him upon a jury verdict of burglary in the second degree (Penal Law §140.25[2]). The 4th Department agreed with defendant that County Court erred in denying his motion to dismiss the indictment pursuant to CPL 210.20 (1) (c) because he was denied his right to testify before the grand jury. The prosecutor notified defendant and his counsel at the arraignment on the felony complaint that the matter would be presented to the grand jury the next morning, in less than 24 hours. Later that day, defense counsel notified the court that he could no longer represent defendant due to a conflict of interest. The following morning, after the grand jury voted to indict defendant, he was assigned new counsel by the local court. Defense counsel, Lawrence L. Kasperek, objected to the short notice of the grand jury proceeding and gave the prosecutor written notice of defendant’s intent to testify. The prosecutor offered defendant the opportunity to testify before the grand jury before it filed the indictment, but refused defendant’s request to testify before a different grand jury.

The Court agreed with defendant that he was not given “reasonable time to exercise his right to appear as a witness” before the grand jury (CPL 190.50 [5] [a]). “CPL 190.50 (5) (a) does not mandate a specific time period for notice; rather, ‘reasonable time’ must be accorded to allow a defendant an opportunity to consult with counsel and decide whether to testify before a [g]rand [j]ury” (People v Sawyer, 96 NY2d 815, 816, rearg denied 96 NY2d 928). Under “the particular facts” of this case, including the less than 24 hours’ notice of the grand jury proceeding and assigned counsel’s withdrawal from representation, the Court concluded that defendant did not have reasonable time to consult with counsel and decide whether to testify before the case was presented to the grand jury (see People v Degnan, 246 AD2d 819, 820; see also People v Fields, 258 AD2d 593, 594; cf. Sawyer, 96 NY2d at 817).

James A. Hobbs, Assistant Public Defender successfully argued the issue before the Appellate Court. Good Hunting. 

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