The Fourth Department majority affirmed defendant’s conviction, but a two-justice dissent argument defense counsel allowed prejudicial evidence to come in without any strategic justification:
From the dissent:
Meaningful representation is “reasonable competence, not perfect representation” … . “However it is elementary that the right to effective representation includes the right to assistance by an attorney who has taken the time to review and prepare both the law and the facts relevant to the defense . . . and who is familiar with, and able to employ at trial basic principles of criminal law and procedure” … . “Whether counsel has adequately performed these functions is necessarily a question of degree, in which cumulative errors particularly on basic points essential to the defense, are often found to be determinative” … .
Here, when the People sought to introduce the order of protection in evidence, defense counsel failed to seek removal of the portion of that order stating the crimes for which defendant had previously been convicted, despite the fact that Supreme Court previously denied the People’s Sandoval application. Moreover, as a direct result of defense counsel’s open-ended questions, a witness stated during cross-examination that defendant was previously incarcerated. Most critically, however, defense counsel’s open-ended questioning of the victim during cross-examination revealed that defendant had, on a prior occasion, broken into her home through the basement window. In this prosecution for, inter alia, burglary in the first degree, we cannot foresee evidence being more prejudicial than testimony elicited by his own counsel that defendant previously committed the same criminal act against the same victim. People v Howard, 2024 NY Slip Op 00711, Fourth Dept 2-9-24
Practice Point: The majority affirmed, but two dissenting judges argued defense counsel unnecessarily put evidence which was highly prejudicial to his client before the jury.