Trial judges must apprise counsel of the contents of jury notes and give them a chance to discuss the intended response, the Appellate Division, Second Department, reiterated in two unrelated Queens cases.
The Second Department’s reversals in People v. Sydoriak, 2014 NY Slip Op, 06004, and People v. Morris, 2014 NY Slip Op 0600, underscored the 1991 Court of Appeals precedent, People v. O’Rama, 78 NY2d 270, where the high court established procedures for handling communications from the jury under CPL 310.30.
In Sydoriak and Morris, Supreme Court Justices Kenneth Holder (See Profile) and Michael Aloise (See Profile), respectively, had responded to jury queries without first advising counsel as to the notes’ content or revealing the intended response. The Second Department said that amounts to reversible error, even though the defendants failed to object to the manner in which the trial courts dealt with the notes.
The Sydoriak defendant had pleaded guilty to second-degree attempted murder and was convicted at trial of attempted first-degree robbery as well as gun and drug charges. A Second Department panel consisting of justices Peter Skelos (See Profile), Plummer Lott (See Profile), Sheri Roman (See Profile) and Jeffrey Cohen (See Profile) unanimously reversed.
Alexis Ascher of Appellate Advocates argued for the defendant while assistant Queens district attorneys John Castellano and Christopher Blira-Koessler appeared for the prosecution.
The defendant in Morris was convicted of first-degree assault and a weapons charge. Justices Cohen, Mark Dillon (See Profile), John Leventhal (See Profile) and L. Priscilla Hall (See Profile) agreed that reversal was required because of the trial court’s error.
Jessica McNamara of Appellate Advocates appeared for the defendant. Castellano and Sharon Brodt of the Queens District Attorneys’ office represented the prosecution.