The defendant is appealing a judgment made by the County Court of Nassau County. The judgment convicted him of robbery in the third degree.
The defendant was charged with robbery in the first degree for having forcibly stolen money from the complainant’s store while wielding a knife. The complainant testified that the defendant had taken money from both the cash register and a cigar box in which lottery receipts were kept and warned her not to tell anyone about the robbery.
The defendant testified on his own behalf and admitted that he had stolen money from the cigar box, but denied having a knife as well as stealing money from the register and threatening the complainant.
Before the trial, the defendant made a motion to limit the prosecutions crosses examination regarding his prior criminal convictions. The defendant had been convicted three times in the past, twice for felonies and once for a misdemeanor. The most recent charges involved a gunpoint robbery of a deli.
The trial court ruled that if the defendant took the stand that the prosecution would not be able to cross examine him about his two of his previous convictions, but would be allowed to confront the defendant with the fact that he had been previously convicted of a robbery.
After the jury was selected the court revised its ruling at the defendant’s request to limit the People’s inquiry to whether the defendant had previously been convicted of a felony without specifying that the felony was a robbery.
When the defendant testified the prosecutor abided by the ruling and the defendant admitted to being previously convicted of a felony.
Court Discussion and Decision
When a criminal defendant chooses to testify like any other civil or criminal witness they may be cross examined regarding prior crimes and bad acts that bear on credibility, veracity, or honesty.
However, in order to minimize the risk of the evidence of prior convictions will be used by the fact finder not on the issue of credibility, but as proof of the defendant’s propensity to commit the charged crime, the defendant may obtain from the court an advance ruling as to whether and to what extent the people will be allowed to offer the evidence in the event the defendant testifies.
The court has reviewed the facts of the case and finds that the People followed the court order while cross examining the defendant.
For this reason, the motion by the defendant is denied as the issue did not affect the outcome of the jury trial.
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