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CONVICTION UPHELD DESPITE HOSTILITY NEW YORK — A Manhattan Supreme Court judge’s hostility at trial toward a defense attorney did not rise to the level of meriting a reversal of the defendant’s conviction, an Appellate Division, 1st Department, panel has unanimously held. Attorneys familiar with Patrick Straniero’s criminal possession trial, which resulted in a conviction and a sentence of 15 years to life, said the proceedings quickly descended into contentiousness uncommon even in a New York court. Straniero’s appellate attorney, Richard Mischel, argued that Justice Arlene Silverman’s open hostility denied his client’s right to a fair trial. The court exhibited frequent contempt for the trial attorney, Robert Altchiler, as exemplified by Silverman’s asking of more than 550 questions during the course of the relatively short trial, according to Mischel. One example cited in his appellate brief transpired during Altchiler’s opening arguments. “It’s my view, you don’t even have the right to open,” Silverman told Altchiler. “Since you have nothing to prove, you have nothing to open on.” The appellate panel, however, placed the blame squarely on Altchiler, and held that Silverman’s remarks did not merit a reversal of Straniero’s conviction. “[U]pon reviewing the record, it is indisputable that to the extent the court’s conduct could in any remote way be perceived as hostile, this was the direct result of defense counsel’s constant baiting, belittling, provoking and showing disrespect to the court throughout the trial,” the panel ruled in its unsigned opinion, People v. Straniero, 5168. — New York Law Journal

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