Court Decision: Three Trial Court Errors Result in Reversal of Weapon Possession Conviction

Appellate Division, Second Department: People v. Parker

Three Trial Court Errors Result in Reversal of Weapon Possession Conviction

Mr. Parker was convicted of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon following a jury trial in Queens County. After being shot three times in the elbow, leg, and lower back and undergoing three surgeries, Mr. Parker was at the hospital in the intensive care unit, receiving pain medication, when he made statements to the police. Trial counsel’s request to suppress the statements as involuntary in light of Mr. Parker’s medical condition at the time was denied. The Second Department reversed based on three independent grounds.

First, the People failed to establish Mr. Parker had validly waived his right against self-incrimination, as he was recently in a medically-induced coma, had come out of surgery only hours earlier, and was still in the intensive care unit. Furthermore, the detective obtained Mr. Parker’s videotaped statement by removing his oxygen mask. It was therefore apparent that his statements were not the product of his free and rational choice.

Second, the trial court failed to instruct the jury to disregard the statements if they found the statements were involuntarily made. Reversal was warranted due to this incomplete jury charge.

And third, the trial court erred in denying a Batson challenge. The prosecutor’s grounds for excluding four prospective jurors who were African American and male — that they were unemployed, living at home with family members, and lacked life experience to decide the case — were not related to the facts of the case and were not applied equally to exclude other prospective jurors. Because the prosecutor’s reasons were pretextual, the Batson challenge should have been granted.

Brian Perbix represented Mr. Parker