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People v. Metellus

Supreme Court of New York, Second Department

January 17, 2018

The People, etc., respondent,
v.
Mario Metellus, appellant. Ind. No. 4923/05

          Argued - October 19, 2017

         D54395 L/hu

          Paul Skip Laisure, New York, NY (Leila Hull of counsel), for appellant, and appellant pro se.

          Eric Gonzalez, District Attorney, Brooklyn, NY (Leonard Joblove and Solomon Neubort of counsel), for respondent.

          L. PRISCILLA HALL, J.P. JEFFREY A. COHEN BETSY BARROS LINDA CHRISTOPHER, JJ.

          DECISION & ORDER

         Appeal by the defendant from a judgment of the Supreme Court, Kings County (William E. Garnett, J.), rendered December 7, 2012, convicting him of murder in the second degree, upon a jury verdict, and imposing sentence. The appeal brings up for review the denial, after a hearing (Matthew J. D'Emic, J.), of that branch of the defendant's omnibus motion which was to suppress his statements to law enforcement officials.

         ORDERED that the judgment is reversed, on the law, and a new trial is ordered.

         The Supreme Court properly denied, without a hearing, the defendant's motion pursuant to CPL 210.20(1)(g) to dismiss the indictment on the ground that he was denied his right to a speedy trial and his due process right to prompt prosecution. A defendant's right to a speedy trial is guaranteed both by the United States Constitution (see US Const 6th, 14th Amends; Klopfer v North Carolina, 386 U.S. 213), and by statute (see CPL 30.20[1]; Civil Rights Law § 12). Moreover, an unjustified delay in prosecution will deprive a defendant of the State constitutional right to due process (see NY Const, art I, § 6; People v Decker, 13 N.Y.3d 12, 14; People v Staley, 41 N.Y.2d 789, 791). However, "a determination made in good faith to delay prosecution for sufficient reasons will not deprive defendant of due process even though there may be some prejudice to defendant'' (People v Vernace, 96 N.Y.2d 886, 888; see People v Decker, 13 N.Y.3d at 14). Where there has been extended delay, the People have the burden to establish good cause (see People v Decker, 13 N.Y.3d at 14; People v Singer, 44 N.Y.2d 241, 254).

         In determining whether a defendant's constitutional right to a speedy trial has been violated, the Court of Appeals has articulated five factors to be considered: (1) the extent of the delay; (2) the reason for the delay; (3) the nature of the underlying charges; (4) any extended period of pretrial incarceration; and (5) any impairment of the defendant's defense (see People v Romeo, 12 N.Y.3d 51, 55; People v Taranovich, 37 N.Y.2d 442, 445; see also Moore v Arizona, 414 U.S. 25, 26; Barker v Wingo, 407 U.S. 514, 533). These factors apply as well to the due process guarantee (see People v Decker, 13 N.Y.3d at 15; People v Vernace, 96 N.Y.2d at 887; People v Staley, 41 N.Y.2d at 792). "In this State, 'we have never drawn a fine distinction between due process and speedy trial standards' when dealing with delays in prosecution" (People v Vernace, 96 N.Y.2d at 887, quoting People v Singer, 44 N.Y.2d at 253).

         Here, the Supreme Court appropriately balanced the requisite factors in denying the defendant's motion to dismiss the indictment. While there was an extensive delay of 31 months between the commission of the decedent's murder and the indictment, the Supreme Court properly determined that the People met their burden of demonstrating good cause for the delay. The case was largely circumstantial and, thus, the People had a good faith basis to wait until they believed that they had sufficient evidence to arrest the defendant (see People v Decker, 13 N.Y.3d at 14; People v Denis, 276 A.D.2d 237, 248; People v LaRocca, 172 A.D.2d 628; cf. Doggett v United States, 505 U.S. 647, 652-653; People v Staley, 41 N.Y.2d at 792). Moreover, the nature of the charge, murder in the second degree, was very serious, the defendant was not incarcerated during the delay period, and he failed to demonstrate prejudice resulting from the delay (see People v Vernace, 96 N.Y.2d at 888; People v Fuller, 57 N.Y.2d 152, 160; People v Taranovich, 37 N.Y.2d at 445-446; People v Bryant, 65 A.D.2d 333, 337).

         The Supreme Court also properly denied, after hearing, that branch of the defendant's omnibus motion which was to suppress his statements to law enforcement officials, because the statements were voluntarily made after the defendant knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waived his Miranda rights (see Miranda v Arizona, 384 U.S. 436; People v Dayton, 66 A.D.3d 797; People v O'Malley, 282 A.D.2d 884).

         Contrary to the defendant's contention, the Supreme Court imposed a sufficient sanction, an adverse inference charge, on the prosecution for failing to produce the Miranda card used to administer the warnings to the defendant (see People v Martinez, 276 A.D.2d 645; People v Fullwood, 254 A.D.2d 431). Furthermore, the People's failure to produce the Miranda card did not constitute a Rosario violation (see People v Rosario, 9 N.Y.2d 286, 289-291). Two detectives credibly testified that the Miranda warnings were preprinted on the Miranda card. Therefore, since the Miranda card was not a prior statement of a prosecution witness (cf. People v Consolazio, 40 N.Y.2d 446, 453), the failure to produce the Miranda card did not constitute a Rosario violation. The defendant's further contention that the People's failure to produce the memo book of one of the detectives constituted a Rosario violation is unpreserved for appellate review (see CPL 47O.O5[2]) and, in any event, without merit, because the detective's unrebutted testimony was that he took no notes during his interview of the defendant.

         We agree with the defendant, however, that reversal is warranted based on the Supreme Court's dismissal of the first jury panel. The court opened jury selection by swearing in a full panel of prospective jurors. The court then stated the charges against the defendant and listed the names of all of the prospective witnesses, asking jurors to indicate if they recognized their names. After the court gave its preliminary instructions and questioned individual jurors about potential hardships, it called 20 people into the jury box. The court asked each of those prospective jurors about his or her background, contacts with the criminal justice system, and hobbies, and then turned the questioning over to the prosecutor. The prosecutor questioned the prospective jurors until the court broke for lunch. After the recess, both defense counsel and the prosecutor notified the court about an interaction between one of the potential jurors and the defendant's brother. The court was told that as people were waiting outside the courtroom to re-enter, one of the potential jurors approached and hugged the defendant's brother. The two chatted briefly until defense counsel interceded and directed them to stop. The two, however, continued to talk until both defense counsel and one of the prosecutors stopped them. During the colloquy on the People's application to dismiss the entire jury panel, the prosecutor maintained that three of the other potential jurors seemed to be looking and commenting on what was going on, while defense counsel maintained that the three potential jurors were actually standing about 10 to 15 feet away, were not privy to the conversation, and were not able to hear it.

         The Supreme Court granted the prosecutor's application to dismiss the entire jury panel, concluding that the defendant's brother had potentially tainted the entire panel. Significantly, the court did not first conduct an inquiry of the potential jurors as to what they had seen and as to whether they could remain impartial. Where, as here, a jury panel is ''properly drawn and sworn to answer questions truthfully, there must be legal cause or a peremptory challenge to exclude a [prospective] juror" (People v Thorpe,223 A.D.2d 739, 740; see CPL 27O.O5[2]; People v Collier,114 A.D.3d 1136; People v Roblee,70 A.D.3d 225). By dismissing the entire jury panel without questioning the ability of the individual prospective jurors to be fair and impartial (cf. People v Wells,7 N.Y.3d 51, 59-60), the court deprived ...


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