Conviction Overturned Because the Prosecutor Improperly Rebutted the Alibi Witness
In People v Crevelle, the Court found that the trial Court committed error in allowing the District Attorney to call witnesses in rebuttal to the defendant’s alibi witness.
In this shooting case, which ultimately resulted in Mr. Crevelle’s conviction for attempted murder, the defendant called his girlfriend as an alibi witness to say he was with her at the time of the shooting. After her testimony, the District Attorney requested an adjournment, which was granted by the trial court, to call rebuttal witnesses including a telephone company employee to testify that the defendant’s cellular telephone was located near the area of the shooting, and not his girlfriend’s house at the time of the shooting.
The District Attorney informed the trial court “that she ‘tactically chose’ to not speak with the defendant’s girlfriend before trial and she had not been certain she would be able to establish the foundation necessary for the People’s rebuttal case.”
The conviction was overturned because the Appellate Court held that when a defendant serves alibi notice, the district attorney is legally obligated to serve reciprocal discovery on the defendant of any rebuttal witnesses to be used to contradict the alibi witness.
The Court cited the United States Supreme Court decision of Wardius v Oregon, 412 US 470 (1973) where the court held that “the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment forbids enforcement of alibi rules unless reciprocal discovery rights are given to criminal defendants. Notice-of-alibi statutes are required to include reciprocal discovery provisions because the State may not insist that trials be run as a search for truth so far as defense witnesses are concerned, while maintaining poker game secrecy for its own witnesses. It is fundamentally unfair to require a defendant to divulge the details of his own case while at the same time subjecting him to the hazard of surprise concerning refutation of the very pieces of evidence which he disclosed to the State”
So, even though the Second Department, Appellate Division believed that the evidence proved the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, this error by the government and the court required a reversal and a new trial.
Read the original decision here.
People v Crevelle