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Defendant Objects to Prior Convictions Being Brought in as Evidence

A New York Gun Crime Lawyer said a man was charged with robbery for having forcibly stolen money from the complainant’s store while wielding a knife. The complainant testified that the man had taken money from both the cash register and a cigar box in which lottery receipts were kept, and had warned her not to tell anyone about the robbery. Testifying in his own behalf, the man admitted that he had stolen money from the cigar box, but denied that he had possessed a knife, stolen money from the register, or threatened the complainant.

Prior to trial, the man made a motion to limit the prosecution’s cross-examination regarding his prior criminal convictions. A New York Criminal Lawyer said he had three prior convictions of felonies and misdemeanor. The most recent involved a gun crime with robbery of a delicatessen. Initially, the trial court ruled that if he takes the stand, the Jury would be prohibited from cross-examining him regarding his two earliest convictions, but the Jury would be permitted, without inquiring into the underlying facts of the case, to confront the man with the fact that he had been convicted of robbery. Following jury selection, the court revised its ruling at the man’s request to limit the Jury’s inquiry to whether the man had previously been convicted of a felony without specifying that it was robbery.

When the man testified, the prosecutor abided fully with the court’s ruling and the man admitted of having previously been convicted of a felony. During the Court examination, however, the defense counsel asked the man, over the Jury’s objection, whether he had pleaded guilty to the prior felony charge. A Nassau Criminal Lawyer said the man responded that he did plead because he was guilty. Immediately thereafter, on the Jury’s application and over the defense counsel’s objection, the court modified its ruling to permit the prosecutor to examine the man about the facts underlying the prior robbery conviction.

A criminally accused person that chooses to testify, like any other civil or criminal witness, may be questioned in Court regarding prior crimes and bad acts that bear on credibility, veracity or honesty. A Queens Criminal Lawyer explained that to minimize the risk that evidence of prior convictions will be used by the fact finder, not on the issue of credibility, but as proof of the accused party’s propensity to commit the charged crime, the accused may obtain from the court an advance ruling as to whether and to what extent the Court will be permitted to offer such evidence in the event the accused testifies. Such relief, however, is intended as a shield for the accused, not a sword by which to advance the case for the defense.

Thus, it has been held that when an accused testifies that he pleaded guilty in a previous case because he was, in fact, guilty, thereby implying that his failure to plead guilty to the current charges should be taken as proof of his innocence, he opens the door to questions exploring his true motivation for the prior guilty plea. Indeed, testimony of this type could arguably open the door to court examination which would truly refute it.

In accordance with the court’s ruling, the prosecutor elicited only that the man had been previously convicted of an unnamed felony. The defense counsel then asked on his Court examination whether the conviction had resulted from a guilty plea, and the man gave the answer that led to the modification of the ruling. Although the fact that the man previously had been convicted of a crime was relevant to his credibility, the fact that the conviction resulted from a guilty plea rather than a jury verdict was not. To the contrary, the only reason for eliciting that the man had pleaded guilty in the prior case was to raise the inference that, when guilty, the accused pleads guilty. That is precisely the inference that the Jury may, in the court’s discretion, be permitted to meet with otherwise precluded evidence.

The man was charged with robbery and criminal possession of a weapon relating to the theft of money from a convenience store. At the trial, the man admitted that he took money from a convenience store, but claimed that the larceny was not forcible. The complainant testified that the man threatened and intimidated her and displayed a knife. The jury convicted the man of robbery with a lesser-included offense and acquitted the man of criminal possession of a weapon.

Persons who were previously convicted with crime will have a hard time getting their second chance to fair treatment in the society. To help you prove your innocence to wrong crime accusations, hire a Nassau County Criminal Attorney. If your lawsuit involves possession of deadly weapons, avail of the services of Nassau County Possession of a Weapon Lawyer from Stephen Bilkis and Associates.

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