Appellate Division, Fourth Department
People v. Washington
Appealed from Ontario County
Background: The defendant was convicted of forgery-related counts after trial. Two issues arose on appeal: improper annotations on a verdict sheet, and whether the trial judge improperly curtailed defense counsel’s summation.
Ruling: A new trial was ordered. Extraneous information should be avoided in a verdict sheet. But the judge in this trial annotated the sheet with the check number corresponding with the count of the indictment. Harmless-error analysis is inappropriate where the limits imposed by the verdict-sheet statute are exceeded.
Defense counsel during summation questioned the credibility of the defendant’s alleged accomplice by suggesting that the witness testified only to shorten his sentence. The judge sustained the prosecution’s objection. But the prosecution had earlier brought out testimony concerning the witness’s cooperation agreement and sentencing promises. The defense has the right to comment on every aspect that the jury had to decide. The evidence here was not overwhelming.
Shirley Gorman for the defendant; James B. Ritts for Ontario County District Attorney’s Office