The Second Department, reversing defendant’s conviction in the interest of justice, determined the judge’s denial of defendant’s request for a one-day adjournment to allow defendant’s daughter to travel to court to testimony, and the grant of the People’s related request for a missing witness jury instruction, deprived defendant of a fair trial:
“[W]hen the witness is identified to the court, and is to be found within the jurisdiction, a request for a short adjournment after a showing of some diligence and good faith should not be denied merely because of possible inconvenience to the court or others” … . Under the circumstances here, the Supreme Court should have granted a one-day continuance for the defendant’s daughter to travel to New York from out of state … . The failure to grant this continuance cannot be considered harmless error, as there was conflicting testimony as to the defendant’s whereabouts at the time of the robbery … . …
Although the defendant’s contention that the Supreme Court improvidently exercised its discretion in granting the prosecution’s request for a missing witness charge is unpreserved for appellate review … , this issue is inextricably linked with the denial of the defendant’s request for a continuance, and this Court will consider the issue in the exercise of our interest of justice jurisdiction … . “The failure to produce a witness at trial, standing alone, is insufficient to justify a missing witness charge, ‘[r]ather, it must be shown that the uncalled witness is knowledgeable about a material issue upon which evidence is already in the case; that the witness would naturally be expected to provide noncumulative testimony favorable to the party who has not called him [or her], and that the witness is available to such party'” … . People v Reeves, 2022 NY Slip Op 04979, Second Dept 8-17-22
Practice Point: The request for a one-day adjournment to allow defendant’s daughter to travel to court to give ostensibly relevant testimony (re: defendant’s whereabouts at the time of the robbery), coupled with the grant of the People’s request to give the missing-witness jury instruction, deprived defendant of a fair trial. The jury-instruction issue was not preserved and was considered in the interest of justice.