The Second Department, reversing defendant’s conviction, determined that a hearsay statement allegedly made by the only witness (Lindsay) to identify the defendant as one of the masked intruders in this home-invasion murder-assault-burglary case should have been allowed in evidence. Lindsay, who was shot by one of the intruders, initially claimed he could not identify anyone because they were wearing face-coverings. He later identified the defendant and the others, claiming that he initially did not identify them because he was afraid. The witness who was not allowed to testify, Boyd, is Lindsay’s brother. Boyd would have testified that Lindsay repeatedly told him he could not identify any of the intruders. Boyd had contacted defense counsel only after Lindsay testified so no foundation for Boyd’s testimony had been laid. The prosecutor was willing to allow Lindsay to be recalled for that purpose:
“Once a proper foundation is laid, a party may show that an adversary’s witness has, on another occasion, made oral or written statements which are inconsistent with some material part of the trial testimony, for the purpose of impeaching the credibility and thereby discrediting the testimony of the witness” … . “Since evidence of inconsistent statements is often collateral to the ultimate issue before the [trier of fact] and bears only upon the credibility of the witness, its admissibility is entrusted to the sound discretion of the Trial Judge'” … . Indeed, “[i]t is well established that the trial courts have broad discretion to keep the proceedings within manageable limits and to curtail exploration of collateral matters” … . However, “the trial court’s discretion in this area is circumscribed by the defendant’s constitutional rights to present a defense and confront his accusers” … . “Thus, while a trial court may preclude impeachment evidence that is speculative, remote, or collateral, [that] rule . . . has no application where the issue to which the evidence relates is material in the sense that it is relevant to the very issues that the [trier of fact] must decide'” … .
“Where the truth of the matter asserted in the proffered inconsistent statement is relevant to a core factual issue of a case, its relevancy is not restricted to the issue of credibility and its probative value is not dependent on the inconsistent statement” … . Under such circumstances, the right to present a defense may “encompass[ ] the right to place before the [trier of fact] secondary forms of evidence, such as hearsay” … . “Indeed where constitutional rights directly affecting the ascertainment of guilt are implicated, the hearsay rule may not be applied mechanistically to defeat the ends of justice'” … . People v Butts, 2020 NY Slip Op 03243, Second Dept 6-10-20