Appeals Court Reverses Suppression of Statement and Physical Evidence Based on Incorrect Ruling on Confrontation Clause
In People v Mitchell, 2015 NY Slip Op 00786, the Second Department reversed the ruling of the Nassau County Supreme Court suppressing the defendant’s statements to law enforcement and physical evidence recovered from the defendant on the ground that the Court improperly applied the Sixth Amendment right of confrontation to suppression hearings.
Mr. Mitchell was arrested by Police Officer Joseph Olivieri, but Officer Olivieri passed away before the defendant’s suppression hearing. At the hearing, the Nassau County District Attorney called Police Officer Matthew Schmidt to testify. Officer Schmidt testified that he drove to Exit 50 of the Long Island Expressway (LIE) where he encountered the defendant and Police Officer Olivieri. Officer Olivieri told Officer Schmidt that he observed the defendant driving at 110 miles per hour near exit 46 of the LIE. After a brief chase, Officer Olivieri pulled the defendant over at exit 50 and observed the telltale signs of intoxication of “glassy, bloodshot eyes, and a strong odor of alcohol on his breath.”
The hearing Court suppressed the statements and physical evidence based on the United States Supreme Court in holding in Crawford v Washington, which states that hearsay cannot be introduced in a criminal trial, notwithstanding any exception to the hearsay rule, where the hearsay is testimonial in nature and the defendant does not have the opportunity to confront the hearsay declarant.
The Appeals court for the Second Department held that the holding in Crawford v Washington does not apply to suppression hearings but only to a trial, and under New York Criminal Procedure Law 710.60(4) hearsay evidence is admissible to establish any material fact at a pretrial suppression hearing.
The decision to suppress was reversed and the case was returned to the trial court for further proceedings. Whether the District Attorney will be able to make out proof beyond a reasonable doubt without the deceased officer’s testimony is a major question, but the case will proceed to trial court for further proceedings.
Read the original decision here.
People v Mitchell