HEARING OFFICER FAILED TO MAKE A MEANINGFUL INQUIRY INTO INMATE WITNESS’S ALLEGATION HE WAS COERCED INTO REFUSING TO TESTIFY.
The Court of Appeals, in a full-fledged opinion by Judge Fahey, determined: (1) an inmate's statement that he/she does not wish to be involved or does not want to testify is sufficient to protect the inmate's right to call the witness; and (2) the hearing officer's failure to inquire into an inmate witness's allegation of he was coerced into refusing to testify required reversal:
… [W]hen there is a “claim of coercion, . . . the Hearing Officer ha[s] a duty to inquire further into [the] refusal to testify” … . Whether such an inquiry will require an in-person or telephone interview of the refusing inmate by the hearing officer or may instead proceed through the intermediary of a suitably briefed correction officer will depend on the circumstances surrounding the allegation.
Here, the hearing officer failed to make a meaningful inquiry, either personally or through a correction officer, into the allegation of coercion by the refusing inmate witness. Matter of Cortorreal v Annucci, 2016 NY Slip Op 06943, CtApp 10-25-16
DISCIPLINARY HEARINGS (INMATES) (HEARING OFFICER FAILED TO MAKE A MEANINGFUL INQUIRY INTO INMATE WITNESS'S ALLEGATION HE WAS COERCED INTO REFUSING TO TESTIFY)