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People v. Griggs

Supreme Court of New York, Fourth Department

July 5, 2013

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, RESPONDENT,
v.
PERRY GRIGGS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.

Appeal from a judgment of the Supreme Court, Erie County (Penny M. Wolfgang, J.), rendered June 9, 2011. The judgment convicted defendant, upon a jury verdict, of criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree.

THE LEGAL AID BUREAU OF BUFFALO, INC., BUFFALO (VINCENT F. GUGINO OF COUNSEL), FOR DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.

PERRY GRIGGS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT PRO SE.

FRANK A. SEDITA, III, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, BUFFALO (MATTHEW B. POWERS OF COUNSEL), FOR RESPONDENT.

PRESENT: SCUDDER, P.J., PERADOTTO, LINDLEY, SCONIERS, AND WHALEN, JJ.

It is hereby ORDERED that the judgment so appealed from is unanimously affirmed.

Memorandum: On appeal from a judgment convicting him following a jury trial of criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree (Penal Law § 265.03 [3]), defendant contends that Supreme Court erred in denying his motion to dismiss the indictment based upon alleged prosecutorial misconduct before the grand jury. According to defendant, the prosecutor improperly questioned him about his prior criminal convictions and failed to instruct the grand jurors properly with respect to the defense of temporary innocent possession. We reject defendant's contention. With respect to the alleged prosecutorial misconduct, we note that the prosecutor was entitled to cross-examine defendant on issues concerning his credibility (see People v Thomas, 213 A.D.2d 73, 76, affd 88 N.Y.2d 821) and, because defendant's criminal record "clearly demonstrated his willingness to place his own interests above those of society, [it] was thus a proper subject for cross-examination" (People v Burton, 191 A.D.2d 451, 451, lv denied 81 N.Y.2d 1011). With respect to the instruction on the defense of temporary innocent possession, we note that it is almost identical to the instruction set forth in the Pattern Jury Instructions (see CJI2d[NY] Temporary and Lawful Possession). Defendant raises several other contentions regarding the conduct of the prosecutor during the grand jury proceedings, but they are similarly without merit.

We reject defendant's further contention that the court erred in permitting defendant's ex-girlfriend to testify that she observed him in possession of the firearm in question on the night before his arrest. That testimony was relevant to defendant's defense of temporary innocent possession of the weapon. We agree with defendant, however, that the court erred in permitting his ex-girlfriend to testify concerning prior drug sales and acts of domestic violence. That testimony was not relevant to a material issue at trial and, furthermore, its probative value was outweighed by its prejudicial effect (see generally People v Cass, 18 N.Y.3d 553, 559). Nevertheless, we conclude that the error is harmless (see People v Bounds, 100 A.D.3d 1523, 1524, lv denied 20 N.Y.3d 1096; People v Taylor, 97 A.D.3d 1139, 1141, lv denied 19 N.Y.3d 1029; see generally People v Crimmins, 36 N.Y.2d 230, 241-242). Defendant, by his own admission, possessed the loaded firearm, and the only disputed issue at trial was whether the defense of temporary and innocent possession applied. Even assuming, arguendo, that the jurors accepted defendant's seemingly implausible claim that he wrestled the gun away from a man who was trying to rob him, we conclude that the defense of temporary innocent possession does not apply because defendant " made no effort to turn the [gun] over to the police' " after he obtained possession of it (People v Ward, 104 A.D.3d 1323, 1325; see People v McCoy, 46 A.D.3d 1348, 1349-1350, lv denied 10 N.Y.3d 813). Instead, defendant hid the gun under a fence in a vacant lot and then remained silent while the police were searching the vacant lot, conduct that was "utterly at odds with any claim of innocent possession" (McCoy, 46 A.D.3d at 1350 [internal quotation marks omitted]).

Viewing the evidence in light of the elements of criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree as charged to the jury (see People v Danielson, 9 N.Y.3d 342, 349), we also reject defendant's contention that the verdict is against the weight of the evidence (see generally People v Bleakley, 69 N.Y.2d 490, 495; People v Rumph, 93 A.D.3d 1346, 1347, lv denied 19 N.Y.3d 967). Indeed, our "independent review of the evidence reveals that a different verdict would have been unreasonable" (People v Johnson, 24 A.D.3d 803, 804; see People v Peters, 90 A.D.3d 1507, 1508, lv denied 18 N.Y.3d 996; see generally Bleakley, 69 N.Y.2d at 495).

We have reviewed the remaining contentions set forth in defendant's main and pro se supplemental briefs and conclude that none warrants modification or reversal.


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