THE DEFENDANT WAS ENTITLED TO A SIROIS HEARING ON WHETHER HE PROCURED THE VICTIM’S REFUSAL TO TESTIFY; CONVICTION REVERSED (THIRD DEPT).
The Third Department, reversing defendant’s conviction, determined the defendant was entitled to a Sirois hearing. The People argued the victim’s statement should be placed in evidence because the defendant had procured her silence at trial. But the evidence on the issue was conflicting, necessitating a hearing:
… “[D]efendant should have been afforded an opportunity to test the causal link between [the victim’s refusal to testify at trial and the jail calls], as [defendant] requested, at a separate hearing” … . Although the People contend that a hearing was not necessary because the jail calls “so overwhelming[ly]” establish that the victim’s silence was procured by defendant’s misconduct, “this conclusion . . . is not the test inasmuch as [this Court] cannot evaluate the record in its present state since no hearing was held” … . Moreover, although a defendant may waive a hearing … , that did not occur here. There is no evidence in the record that defendant agreed to forego a hearing or agreed to proceed without further inquiry. In fact, when Supreme Court ruled on the ultimate Sirois issue, rather than on whether the People had “allege[d] specific facts which demonstrate a distinct possibility that a criminal defendant has engaged in witness tampering” such that a hearing was required … , defendant’s trial counsel, the next day, prior to any opening statements, requested a hearing … . The court, however, refused this request, reiterating that it found that the People met their ultimate burden on their submissions. Given this, we find that Supreme Court erred by casting aside “the constitutionally guaranteed truth-testing devices of confrontation and cross-examination … . People v Robinson, 2023 NY Slip Op 02561, Second Dept 5-10-23
Practice Point: Where there is conflicting evidence about whether a defendant procured a witness’s refusal to testify, the judge should not rule on it without holding a hearing.
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