The Third Department annulled the determination because the hearing officer did not inquire into the reason for an inmate witness’s refusal to testify:
… [P]etitioner] asserts that the Hearing Officer failed to make any inquiry into the reason that an inmate, who had initially agreed to testify, later changed his mind. The record discloses that this inmate told petitioner’s assistant that he would testify at the hearing, but subsequently refused. Although the inmate did not execute a witness refusal form, he signed a written statement indicating that he did not want to testify out of fear of retaliation. At the hearing, petitioner expressed his desire to have this inmate testify because he was housed in a location where he may have witnessed the incidents in question, and he requested that the Hearing Officer ascertain whether the inmate’s refusal was legitimate. The Hearing Officer did not conduct any further inquiry, and ultimately denied the inmate as a witness.
The Court of Appeals recently held in Matter of Cortorreal v Annucci (28 NY3d 54, 60 ) that where “a refusing inmate witness claims that he or she was coerced into refusing to testify at the hearing . . ., the hearing officer has an obligation to undertake a meaningful inquiry into the allegation.” Here, as in Matter of Cortorreal v Annucci (supra), the Hearing Officer did not make any inquiry of the inmate regarding his fear of retaliation, which was clearly a form of coercion. Rather, the Hearing Officer proceeded to deny petitioner’s request for this witness as redundant ,,, . In the circumstances presented, the subsequent denial does not excuse the Hearing Officer’s failure to make a further inquiry into the inmate’s refusal. Matter of Kalwasinski v Venettozzi, 2017 NY Slip Op 03092, 3rd Dept 4-20-17
DISCIPLINARY HEARINGS (INMATES) (HEARING OFFICER’S FAILURE TO INQUIRE INTO A WITNESS’S REFUSAL TO TESTIFY REQUIRED ANNULMENT)