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Court Discusses Prejudicial Treatment Resulting Prosecution’s Witness and Summation

The defendant was arrested and charged with criminal possession of a dangerous drug in the fourth degree. The police went to the defendant’s apartment where he then sought to dispose of a bag by throwing it from a window. The bag was retrieved by an officer and 56 glassine envelopes were discovered. The defendant as well as the other occupant was arrested and charged. During the trial the defendant testified that he had never used or possessed drugs at any time. The one of the police officers testified that he heard the window open and close and that he was denied entry into the apartment by the defendant. Another officer testified that he saw the defendant throwing a bag from the window and he retrieved the bag. The defendant was convicted and appealed the conviction on the ground that he was denied a fair trial.

The majority in the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the trial court convicting the defendant on a single count of the indictment charging him with criminal possession of a dangerous drug in the fourth degree, notwithstanding the claim that the defendant was denied a fair trial by reason of, inter alia, alleged references by the trial court to drug trafficking and the sale of drugs. The issue was on of credibility between the officer who saw wen the defendant dropped the bag of narcotics and the defendant who stated that he never had any drugs. The police officers were seen as more reliable than the testimony of the defendant.

The minority of the Appellate Court believed that the conviction was to be reversed the judgement because he was of the opinion that the defendant did not receive a fair trial because the testimony of the officer who retrieved the bag should have been excluded coupled with the summation of the Assistant District Attorney. The Assistant District Attorney summarized that because the criminal defendant called no character witness it could be inferred that the defendant was not a man of good character. The judge was of the belief that this summation resulted in prejudice for the defendant.

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