The First Department reversed defendant’s conviction, finding several distinct flaws which deprived defendant of a fair trial. Testimonial hearsay which served to bolster the complainant’s identification of the defendant was improperly admitted. The prosecutor improperly referred to stricken testimony in summation. And the judge effectively coerced the jury into reaching a verdict. With respect to the coerced verdict, the court wrote:
During jury deliberations, the court should have granted defendant’s mistrial motion, made on the ground that any verdict would be reached under coercive circumstances. The court’s statements during jury deliberation were also prejudicial to defendant’s right to a fair trial. The jury returned two notes, on the second and fourth day of deliberations, announcing that the jury was deadlocked; the second note emphatically listed different types of evidence the jury had considered. The court’s Allen charges in response to both notes were mostly appropriate but presented the prospect of protracted deliberations by improperly stating that the jury had only deliberated for a very short time when it had actually deliberated for days … . The court initially informed the jury that its hours on one day would be extended to 7:00 p.m., before reversing that decision and merely extending the hours to 5:00 p.m., and then it extended the hours to 6:00 p.m. on the next day, a Friday. The court improperly described those changes as a “tremendous accommodation” that was “loathed” by the system … .
The court further indicated that the jury would likely continue deliberating into the next week although jurors had been told during jury selection that the case would be over by the aforementioned Friday, raising concerns for one juror who was going to start a new job the following Monday and another juror who was solely responsible for his child’s care in the first three days of the next week … . After the court informed the latter juror that he would be required to show up the next week despite the juror’s purportedly fruitless efforts to obtain alternative childcare, and then brought the juror back into the courtroom solely to reiterate that point more firmly, the jury apparently returned its verdict within less than nine minutes, at about 3:29 p.m. on the Friday … . The totality of the circumstances supports an inference that the jury was improperly coerced into returning a compromise verdict. People v DeJesus, 2015 NY Slip Op 08959, 1st Dept 12-8-15
CRIMINAL LAW (TESTIMONIAL HEARSAY IMPROPERLY ADMITTED)/CRIMINAL LAW (PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT, REFERENCE TO STRICKEN TESTIMONY)/CRIMINAL LAW (COERCED VERDICT, MISTRIAL SHOULD HAVE BEEN GRANTED)/EVIDENCE (TESTIMONIAL HEARSAY IMPROPERLY ADMITTED)/HEARSAY (TESTIMONIAL HEARSAY IMPROPERLY ADMITTED)PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT (REFERENCE TO STRICKEN TESTIMONY)/COERCED VERDICT (JURY IMPROPERLY PRESSURED TO REACH VERDICT BY JUDGE)/VERDICT (COERCED, JURY IMPROPERLY PRESSURED TO REACH VERDICT BY JUDGE)/MISTRIAL (JUDGE IMPROPERLY COERCED JURY TO REACH A VERDICT, MOTION FOR A MISTRIAL SHOULD HAVE BEEN GRANTED)