Trial Judge Assumed the Function and Appearance of an Advocate, Requiring a New Trial
Mr. Pulliam, who was accused of robbing property from a department store and possessing stolen property, proceeded to trial before a jury. During the trial, the judge, inter alia, engaged in his own lines of inquiry; elicited detailed descriptions of the perpetrator, the bags he was carrying, and what the video surveillance camera depicted; asked leading questions about what the security guard saw and heard; repeated the perpetrator’s allegedly threatening language; and elicited what the arresting officer saw when he encountered Mr. Pulliam on the subway platform.
Determining that the trial court “took on the function and appearance of an advocate, at times even engaging in a running commentary on the testimony” and that the court’s “conduct left the impression that it opinion favored the credibility of the People’s witnesses and the merits of the People’s case,” the Appellate Division reversed the conviction in the interest of justice. Because the trial judge’s conduct deprived Mr. Pulliam of a fair trial, a new trial was ordered.
Caitlyn Carpenter & Anders Nelson represented Mr. Pulliam