Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

People v. Reeves

Supreme Court of New York, Fourth Department

July 7, 2017





         Appeal from a judgment of the Onondaga County Court (Donald E. Todd, A.J.), rendered January 11, 2013. The appeal was held by this Court by order entered June 10, 2016, decision was reserved and the matter was remitted to Onondaga County Court for further proceedings (140 A.D.3d 1584). The proceedings were held and completed.

         It is hereby ORDERED that the judgment so appealed from is reversed on the law, that part of defendant's omnibus motion seeking to suppress pretrial identification testimony is granted, and a new trial is granted.

         Memorandum: We previously held this case, reserved decision, and remitted the matter to County Court for a hearing pursuant to CPL 710.60 (4) on that part of defendant's omnibus motion seeking to suppress the pretrial identification testimony of the undercover police officer who allegedly engaged in a transaction with defendant to purchase cocaine more than a year prior to defendant's arrest (People v Reeves, 140 A.D.3d 1584). We concluded that the court had erred in summarily refusing to suppress the challenged testimony on the ground that the identification procedure was "confirmatory, " and we ordered a hearing to test the reliability of the People's identification testimony. Following the hearing upon remittal, the court denied suppression. We now reverse the judgment of conviction, grant that part of defendant's omnibus motion seeking to suppress the pretrial identification testimony, and grant a new trial.

         In our prior decision, we identified in the People's evidence three deficiencies that raised serious and substantial doubts concerning the reliability of the identification procedure utilized by the police. First, the People failed to produce the photograph that was viewed by the undercover officer shortly after the alleged transaction with defendant. Second, defendant was not arrested until more than a year later by a police officer from a different police agency. Third, no postarrest identification procedures were conducted by the police. The hearing record establishes that the People failed to address or remedy those deficiencies.

         At the hearing, the People attempted to introduce in evidence a photograph that was allegedly used by the undercover officer. The court refused to admit the photograph in evidence, however, on the grounds that the People failed to produce it during discovery and that, in their discovery responses, the People expressly denied the existence of any photographs in the People's possession. Thus, the photograph, i.e., the linchpin to the undercover officer's identification of defendant, was not before the court, and we conclude that its absence created a presumption of unreliability in the pretrial identification of defendant by the undercover officer (see generally People v Holley, 26 N.Y.3d 514, 521-523).

         We further note that the People failed to adduce any evidence detailing the procedures used to obtain the photograph at issue (see generally People v Campos, 197 A.D.2d 366, 367, lv denied 82 N.Y.2d 892). The undercover officer testified that he was given the name "Kevin Reeves" by a confidential informant. The confidential informant did not testify. Significantly, the officer could not recall if the confidential informant gave him any identifying factors about "Kevin Reeves" such as height, description, or skin color. The officer testified that he entered the name "Kevin Reeves" into a law enforcement computer database and that his search resulted in a photograph that he printed and viewed after the drug transaction. The officer did not testify, however, as to which search criteria he used, how many photos he viewed in response to his search criteria, and how he may have distinguished among more than one photograph generated by his search. As a result of the above shortcomings in the People's evidence, we conclude that the People failed to rebut the presumption of unreliability of the pretrial identification created by the absence of the photograph (see generally Holley, 26 N.Y.3d at 521-523).

         In light of the foregoing, we further conclude that the People failed to meet their burden of proof on the issue of reliability, and the pretrial identification testimony of the undercover officer based on the photograph should have been suppressed (see People v Nelson, 79 A.D.2d 171, 174-175).

         We respectfully disagree with a number of the conclusions reached by our dissenting colleague. Initially, we note that this was a CPL 710.60 hearing. CPL article 710, concerning motions to suppress evidence, provides a method for a defendant "aggrieved by unlawful or improper acquisition of evidence" to suppress or exclude the use of that evidence against him in a criminal action (CPL 710.20). The term "suggestive" is not used in any section in CPL article 710. Instead, the article speaks of "improper identification testimony" (CPL 710.20) and "improperly made previous identification of the defendant" (CPL 710.20 [6]). We observe that the common-law concern about "suggestiveness" in police pretrial identification procedures arises in the context where there are at least three participants, i.e., the police officer, the complaining witness or eyewitness, and the suspect. The law of "suggestiveness" has evolved out of the concern with the police "conveying the suggestion to the witness that the one presented is believed guilty by the police" (United States v Wade, 388 U.S. 218, 234). Here, that concern is not present as there simply was no complaining witness or eyewitness to whom the police could suggest an identification.

         We also disagree with the dissent's improper casting of the initial burden of proof upon defendant in the context of this hearing. The dissent criticizes defendant for not disputing that the photograph was not of him. That approach is contrary to the well settled rule that the People bear the burden of going forward in the first instance to "establish[ ] the reasonableness of the police conduct in a pretrial identification procedure" (People v Jackson, 98 N.Y.2d 555, 559). Inasmuch as the People failed to enter their proffered photograph in evidence, we conclude that it is improper to suggest that defendant had any obligation to challenge the photograph.

         We further disagree with the dissent's reliance upon a photograph that was not received in evidence at the hearing, and is not in this record, to reach the conclusion that the identification procedure was reliable and not suggestive. Even assuming arguendo that "suggestiveness" is the test, we note that there is a well settled burden-shifting mechanism when the police fail to preserve and produce a photograph used in a pretrial identification (see Holley, 26 N.Y.3d at 521-522). In such a case, failure to preserve the subject photograph or photographs used in the pretrial identification procedure "creates a rebuttable presumption that the People have failed to meet their burden of going forward to establish the lack of suggestiveness" (id. at 522 [internal quotation marks omitted]). The People may rebut the presumption by testimony from the involved police officer or officers with respect to, inter alia, which search criteria were entered into the computer database, how many photographs were returned on such criteria, and how many photographs were viewed (see id.). The People adduced no such testimony in this case.

         As to the dissent's discussion of our rejection of defendant's weight of the evidence challenge in the prior appeal, we simply note that the determination in that appeal was based upon the trial record as it existed at that time, and that the record on the prior appeal included the undercover officer's testimony concerning the now-precluded photograph and now-suppressed pretrial identification procedure. In that prior appeal, we addressed defendant's weight of the evidence challenge to the trial record because defendant raised ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.