The Second Department determined: (1) many counts of the indictment were rendered duplicitous because the complainant in this sex-offense case testified to more than one offense within the time-periods encompassed by indictment counts; (2) the prosecution must be held to the erroneous jury charge to which no objection was made (stating proof complainant was less than 14 was required when the statute says less than 15); (3) the prosecution did not prove complainant was less than 14—relevant counts dismissed; and (4) prosecutorial misconduct during summation (prosecutor acted as an unsworn witness, invited the jury to speculate, shifted the burden of proof, and made inflammatory remarks) mandated a new trial on the remaining counts:
Each count of an indictment may charge one offense only” (CPL 200.30). A count in an indictment is void as duplicitous when that “single count charges more than one offense” … . Where, as here, the crime charged ” is completed by a discrete act, and where a count in the indictment is based on the repeated occurrence of that act over a course of time, the count includes more than a single offense and is duplicitous'” … . ” Even if a count is valid on its face, it is nonetheless duplicitous where the evidence presented . . . at trial makes plain that multiple criminal acts occurred during the relevant time period, rendering it nearly impossible to determine the particular act upon which the jury reached its verdict'” … . * * *
… [S]ince the People did not object to the erroneous jury charge, they were “bound to satisfy the heavier burden” … of proving, for counts 1 through 40, that the defendant engaged in sexual intercourse with a person less than 14 years old. Since the evidence demonstrated that the complainant was 14 years old during the time periods encompassed by counts 17 through 40 of the indictment, the People failed to satisfy this burden as to those counts. * * *
“[S]ummation is not an unbridled debate in which the restraints imposed at trial are cast aside so that counsel may employ all the rhetorical devices at his [or her] command” … . Rather, “[t]here are certain well-defined limits” (id. at 109). Among other things, “[the prosecutor] must stay within the four corners of the evidence’ and avoid irrelevant and inflammatory comments which have a tendency to prejudice the jury against the accused” … . A prosecutor would be well-advised not to test these limits, both so as to stay within his or her proper truth-seeking role … and so as to avoid the waste of time and expense that occurs when a new trial must be conducted solely on the basis of summation misconduct. Here, the prosecutor surpassed the “well-defined limits” … .
The prosecutor acted as an unsworn witness when, in response to defense counsel’s summation comments regarding the lack of corroborative medical evidence and the failure to call certain witnesses, the prosecutor told the jury that the uncalled witnesses had “nothing to offer” and that the medical records the prosecution failed to offer into evidence were “either irrelevant or cumulative” … . The prosecutor also improperly invited the jury to speculate as to certain matters, despite advance warning by the trial court not to engage in that line of comment … . Further, the prosecutor shifted the burden of proof by telling the jury, and repeatedly returning to this theme, that it had not “heard” any “compelling reason” for the complainant to lie, and by suggesting that the jury would have to convict the defendant if it did not “buy” the defendant’s explanation of certain evidence … . The prosecutor further improperly suggested that the jury would have to conclude that the complainant was “evil” in order to acquit the defendant … . The prosecutor repeatedly vouched for the complainant, while denigrating the defense and expressing his personal opinion as to the defendant’s lack of credibility … . Finally, the prosecutor made a number of inflammatory references to the defendant using the complainant as his “personal sex toy” … . People v Singh, 2015 NY Slip Op 04157, 2nd Dept 5-13-15