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PEOPLE STATE NEW YORK v. RALPH CENTOLELLA AND JOHN J. PELLA (11/18/69)

COUNTY COURT OF NEW YORK, ONEIDA COUNTY 1969.NY.43528 <http://www.versuslaw.com>; 305 N.Y.S.2d 279; 61 Misc. 2d 723 November 18, 1969 THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, PLAINTIFF,v.RALPH CENTOLELLA AND JOHN J. PELLA, DEFENDANTS Arthur A. Darrigrand, District Attorney, for plaintiff. Louis T. Brindisi for Ralph Centolella, defendant. Kenneth P. Ray for John J. Pella, defendant. John J. Walsh, J. Author: Walsh


John J. Walsh, J.

Author: Walsh

 During the course of this trial, a serious question of law has arisen which required a recess of this jury trial to permit its resolution before proceeding to hear any further testimony.

The prosecution has presented some 30 witnesses to establish its contention that the two defendants on trial and two co-defendants who have been granted severances for separate reasons, committed an armed robbery in the City of Rome, New York on April 19, 1968.

The testimony now sought to be introduced is that of State Trooper Suffolk. Through him, the prosecution seeks to establish the background, training and pedigree of two bloodhounds, "Colonel of Red Stone" and "Corporal of Red Stone". After a few preliminary questions as to the training and experience of the bloodhounds, defense counsel interposed an objection to such testimony upon the ground that it is completely inadmissible in evidence in a criminal action. The weight of authority in this country, however, holds that evidence of trailing by bloodhounds is admissible in a criminal action provided a proper foundation is first laid. (See "Evidence of Trailing By Dogs In Criminal Cases" Ann. 18 ALR 3d 1221 et seq.)

The following jurisdictions favor the view that such evidence is admissible in evidence: Alabama: Burks v. State (240 Ala. 587); Arkansas: Rolen v. State (191 Ark. 1120); Florida: Tomlinson v. State (129 Fla. 658); Georgia: Mitchell v. State (202 Ga. 247); Kansas: State v. Netherton (133 Kan. 685); Kentucky: Daugherty v. Commonwealth (293 Ky. 147); Louisiana: State v. Green (210 La. 157); Maryland: Terrell v. State (3 Md. App. 340); Massachusetts: Commonwealth v. Le Page (352 Mass. 403); Mississippi: Hinton v. State (175 Miss. 308); Missouri: State v. Fields (434 S. W. 2d 507); North Carolina: State v. Rowland (263 N. C. 353); Ohio: State v. Dickerson (77 Ohio St. 34); Oklahoma: Buck v. State (77 Okla. Crim. 17); Pennsylvania: Commonwealth v. Hoffman (52 Pa. Super. Ct. 272); South Carolina: State v. Brown (103 S. C. 437); Tennessee: Copley v. State (153 Tenn. 189); Texas: Parker v. State (46 Tex. Crim. 461); West Virginia: State v. McKinney (88 W. Va. 400).

Those jurisdictions which hold such evidence inadmissible include: Illinois: People v. Pfanschmidt (262 Ill. 411) (bloodhounds held to be unreliable); Indiana: Ruse v. State (186 Ind. 237) (such evidence too uncertain); Iowa: State v. Grba (196 Iowa 241) (such evidence weak and uncertain); Montana: State v. Storm (125 Mont. 346) (such evidence incompetent); Nebraska: Brott v. State (70 Neb. 395) (such evidence unsafe).

Minnesota declined to pass upon the question of admissibility saying that in that case, Crosby v. Moriarty (148 Minn. 201) no proper foundation had been laid for the evidence.

This brings us to the interesting case of People v. Whitlock (183 App. Div. 482). In that case, the appellate court assumed, without deciding the question, that, under proper conditions, evidence of trailing by a dog would be admissible in evidence, stating that the weight of authority appeared to be in that direction. The conviction was reversed, however, upon the ground that no proper foundation had been laid for the introduction of such evidence.

Although this court is of the opinion that in the absence of appellate ruling to the contrary it should accept the dictum of People v. Whitlock (supra) it might be well to examine the arguments made against the admission of such evidence. . That the actions of the bloodhounds are unreliable.

2. That such evidence constitutes hearsay.

3. That the defendant is deprived of his constitutional right to be confronted by the witnesses against him.

4. That the defendant should not be placed in jeopardy by the actions of an animal.

5. That a defendant cannot cross-examine the dogs.

6. That a jury might be awed by such testimony and give it much greater weight and ...


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