WILLIAM V. GRADY, ESQ. Dutchess County District Attorney
Kristine M. Whelan, Esq.
LAW FIRM OF WILLIAM G. SAYEGH, P.C. Attorneys for Defendant
Kiersten M. Schramek, Esq.
Michael G. Hayes, J.
stands accused by the Grand Jury of the County of Dutchess of
five counts of Attempted Murder in the First Degree, a Class
A-II Felony, in violation of §§110.00 and
125.27(1)(a)(i) of the Penal Law; one count of Criminal
Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree, a Class C Armed
Violent Felony, in violation of § 265.03(1)(b) of the
Penal Law; one count of Criminal Obstruction of Breathing, a
Class A Misdemeanor, in violation of § 121.11(a) of the
Penal Law; three counts of Menacing in the Second Degree, a
Class A Misdemeanor, in violation of § 120.14(1) of the
Penal Law; one count of Criminal Mischief in the Fourth
Degree, a Class A Misdemeanor, in violation of
§145.00(1) of the Penal Law; and two counts of
Endangering the Welfare of a Child, a Class A Misdemeanor, in
violation of § 260.10(1) of the Penal Law.
Grand Jury returned the indictment on or about September 24,
2019. Defendant was produced in County Court for arraignment
on the indictment on October 1, 2019. During that court
appearance, the People filed and served a statement of
readiness for trial. Because the results of a CPL Article 730
psychiatric examination that had been ordered by a lower
court had not yet been received, the matter was then
adjourned to October 16, 2019.
October 16, 2019 appearance, the Court determined that
Defendant is not incapacitated, and that he is fit to
proceed. Defendant was arraigned on the indictment, and the
People represented that they remained ready for trial. The
Court directed the People to file and serve a supplemental
bill of particulars by October 31, 2019, and directed
Defendant to file a supplemental Notice of Intent to Present
Psychiatric Evidence by January 17, 2020. Finally, the Court
set an omnibus motion schedule which, inter alia,
set a January 10, 2020 deadline for Defendant to file reply
papers, if any, to the People's answering papers opposing
letter dated December 27, 2019, Defendant has requested an
extension of time to file reply papers. Defendant asserts
that the defense is entitled to substantial pretrial
discovery under the criminal justice reform legislation that
went into effect on January 1, 2020. Defendant argues that
this discovery is likely to contain information that would
lead to a request for permission to file papers supplementing
any reply that might be filed by the original January 10
deadline, and that granting an extension of that deadline
until after the anticipated discovery is received would
promote judicial economy and carry out the purposes of the
People oppose this application on the grounds that these
discovery requirements are not applicable to cases in which
the People stated their readiness for trial prior to the
January 1, 2020 effective date of the criminal justice reform
legislation. Specifically, the People assert that there is
nothing in CPL Article 245 stating that it applies
retroactively. The People also assert that the Court must
issue an unsealing Order before any transcripts of Grand Jury
testimony can be released to Defendant.
long been recognized that "broader pretrial discovery
enables the defendant to make a more informed plea decision,
minimizes the tactical and often unfair advantage to one
side, and increases to some degree the opportunity for an
accurate determination of guilt or innocence." [
People v. Copicotto, 50 N.Y.2d 222, 226 (1980)].
Until last week, the extent of those pretrial discovery
obligations was defined by CPL Article 240. However,
effective January 1, 2020, CPL Article 240 has been repealed
and replaced by CPL Article 245. This development represents
a sea change in the statutory scheme governing pretrial
discovery in a criminal action.
the former Article 240 regimen, the onus was on the defendant
to demand pretrial discovery. And the list of items that the
People were obligated to produce upon receipt of that demand
was fairly circumscribed [former CPL § 240.20]. In
practice, the bulk of pretrial discovery in most criminal
cases was deferred until the exchange of Rosario
material, which was not statutorily mandated until after the
jury was sworn [former CPL § 240.45].
newly enacted Article 245 shifts the discovery burden by
placing the onus on the People to make early disclosure of a
broad array of material that was previously deferred until
the eve of trial, including the testimony of all witnesses
who appeared before the Grand Jury [CPL § 245.10].
Absent an application for a protective order, the People are
obligated to make this initial, mandatory disclosure as soon
as practicable, but not later than fifteen days after the
arraignment on an indictment (subject to an additional thirty
day extension that is available under certain tightly limited
circumstances) [CPL § 245.10].
statutory amendments may be prospective or retrospective in
effect, procedural statutes will generally be construed to
operate retroactively." [ People v. Anderson,
306 A.D.2d 536 (2d Dept. 2003) (citation omitted)]. "A
finding that the statute is procedural, however, does not
necessarily establish its application to cases already
pending. The legislative intent remains the lodestar." [
People v. Sorbello, 285 A.D.2d 88, 94 (2d Dept.
legislative history to Article 245 pounds a steady beat: that
broad pretrial discovery is essential to a fair and just
criminal justice system; that the discovery afforded by the
former Article 240 was unduly restrictive; and that the
comprehensive discovery provided by Article 245 will promote
better and more efficient outcomes [Memorandum in Support of
Legislation, Assembly Bill A04360; Sponsor's Memo to
Senate Bill S1716]. Recognizing the goals that this
legislation seeks to achieve, there is no plausible basis to
interpret the broad discovery provisions of Article 245 as
being beyond the reach of pending indictments that were the
subject of an earlier statement of readiness for trial.
to the extent that the People assert that Article 245 is
wholly inapplicable to this case, that argument is rejected.
The People shall comply with their automatic discovery
obligations under the ...