The Fourth Department, remitting the matter for a hearing to determine whether a witness’s identification of defendant was confirmatory, noted that the judge should not have found the identification confirmatory for the first time based on the witness’s trial testimony. A Rodriguez hearing should have been when the issue came up at trial:
The witness in question disclosed on cross-examination at trial that he had identified defendant as the assailant in a photograph shown to him by the police. The People’s CPL 710.30 notice did not reference this identification. Defense counsel thus asked the court to strike the witness’s testimony on the ground of lack of notice, but the court, relying on the witness’s trial testimony, ruled that the People were not required to give notice because the identification was confirmatory. That was error. As the Court of Appeals has made clear, “prior familiarity should not be resolved at trial in the first instance” (Rodriguez, 79 NY2d at 452 …), and, in any event, the witness’s trial testimony was not sufficient to establish as a matter of law that the identification was confirmatory.
Although the witness testified that he knew defendant because he had seen him “a couple of times” at the barber shop, and that the two had each other’s phone numbers, he also testified that he did not know defendant well, that he knew him only by a common nickname, and that they never spoke again after the assault. A midtrial Rodriguez hearing would have allowed defense counsel to flesh out the extent of the relationship between the two men, thereby allowing the court to make a more informed determination as to whether the pretrial identification of defendant was confirmatory as a matter of law. People v Alcaraz-ubiles, 2023 NY Slip Op 01637, Fourth Dept 3-24-23
Practice Point: If the defense is not given notice of a witness’s identification of the defendant, the witness cannot testify about the identification unless it was “confirmatory,” I.e., based on knowing the defendant. Here the judge should not have found the identification confirmatory based on the witness’s trial testimony. A midtrial Rodriguez hearing should have been held. The matter was remitted.