The Second Department, reversing defendant’s conviction and ordering a new trial before a different judge, determined defendant was deprived of a fair trial by the judge’s entering a plea agreement with a testifying codefendant:
The defendant … contends that he was deprived of his due process right to a fair trial by the County Court’s act of entering into a plea agreement with the testifying codefendant. The court’s agreement with the codefendant was made in conjunction with a cooperation agreement reached between the codefendant and the People. The codefendant had been charged with, inter alia, murder in the second degree. The People had promised to recommend a determinate sentence of imprisonment between two and seven years in exchange for the codefendant’s guilty plea to the reduced charge of attempted robbery in the second degree. However, the court promised the codefendant a sentence of only probation in exchange for her testimony against the defendant. Although the defendant failed to preserve this issue for appellate review (see CPL 470.05), we nevertheless reach it in the exercise of our interest of justice jurisdiction.
We agree with the defendant that, under the circumstances here, the County Court committed reversible error when it “negotiated and entered into a [plea] agreement with a codefendant requiring that individual to testify against defendant in exchange for a more favorable sentence” … . By doing so, “the trial court abandoned the role of a neutral arbiter and assumed the function of an interested party, thereby creating a specter of bias that requires reversal” … . People v Greenspan, 2020 NY Slip Op 04408, Second Dept 8-5-20