Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Home / Law / Multiple issues lead to new trial on gun charges

Multiple issues lead to new trial on gun charges

Judge and prosecution cited for errors

The Appellate Division of state Supreme Court, Fourth Department, has granted a new trial to a woman because of multiple issues that deprived her of a fair trial.

Ayiesha Horton

Ayiesha Horton

Ayiesha Horton, 34, was convicted in April 2013 of two counts of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon and one count of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon.

She was sentenced to prison for a minimum of six years and 10 months and a maximum of eight years.

“She really didn’t have a fair trial because, on the one hand, she didn’t get her side of the story in. But, on the other hand, prosecution evidence was admitted where it shouldn’t have been,” said John P. Bringewatt, an associate at Harter Secrest & Emery LLP, which handled the appeal pro bono for the Monroe County Public Defender’s Office.

No gun was ever found or presented as evidence in the case.

“It really did come down to her word versus the complaining witness’s word,” Bringewatt said.

Assistant Monroe County District Attorney Nancy Gilligan said: “Any mistakes that were made did not serve to deprive the defendant of a fair trial.”

Horton was convicted mainly on the testimony of the alleged victim, who claimed Horton brought a gun to her apartment where they argued and the gun went off during a struggle, according to the decision dated Dec. 23.

Horton said the gun actually belonged to the complainant, who pointed it at her because she refused to let the complainant use her public assistance card to get cash to buy drugs.

Monroe County Court Judge Victoria M. Argento would not allow Horton’s lawyer to cross-examine the complainant about her illegal drug use and allegations that she misused a public assistance card in the past.

Horton “was improperly precluded from establishing that the complainant was engaged in a criminal enterprise and regularly purchased crack cocaine — therefore having good reason to possess a gun, as compared to defendant,” the appellate panel wrote in the decision.

That evidence also would have shown that the complainant had a good reason to make up the story that the gun was Horton’s.

The Fourth Department also cited the prosecution’s remarks during summation about Horton’s failure to turn herself in to police.

“The prosecutor’s handling of that subject was extremely prejudicial and deprived defendant of a fair trial, thereby requiring reversal,” the Fourth Department panel wrote.

A defendant is under no greater obligation to contact police than she is to make statements to them, the court wrote.

Argento also allowed the prosecution to elicit testimony from a witness that Horton was a drug dealer.

“The testimony caused defendant substantial prejudice and deprived her of a fair trial, thereby requiring reversal,” the panel wrote.