A Brooklyn appellate panel has overturned a defendant’s robbery and drug convictions because his trial counsel neglected to seek severance of the unrelated charges.
The Appellate Division, Second Department, said the robbery and drug charges lodged against Earl Hall were unconnected, albeit included in the same indictment.
It said defense attorney Robert Soshnick of Queens should have moved pretrial to sever the counts. Records show that Soschnick did not complain until sentencing, an oversight the court said amounted to ineffective assistance.
“As a result of defense counsel’s error, the same jury that heard evidence regarding the robbery also heard voluminous evidence concerning the defendant’s arrest and large quantity of drugs found at his mother’s home,” the Second Department said in an unsigned decision and order by Presiding Justice Randall Eng (See Profile) and justices John Leventhal (See Profile), Plummer Lott (See Profile) and Sheri Roman (See Profile). “Consequently, the jury could have inferred that the robbery at issue was committed for a drug-related purpose, and it is probably that the improper joinder tainted the jury’s evaluation of the separate, unrelated incidents.”
Hall, who was convicted at a 2009 trial before Queens Supreme Court Justice Michael Aloise, was represented on the appeal by Paul Wiener of the Legal Aid Society. The Queen’s District Attorney’s office was represented by John Castellano, Nicoletta Caferri and Jennifer Hagan.
The case was People v. Hall, 2009-01860.