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Defendant Contends Line of Questioning was Prejudiced


A man was arrested and charged with criminal heroin possession and sale sometime in August of 1973. The man stood trial and opted to testify in his own behalf. A New York Criminal Lawyer said he testified that the police officers who arrested him pressured him into becoming a police informant. He also testified that when he refused to be a police informant, the police officers threatened him with bodily harm.

He testified also on direct examination that he had never been convicted of any drug crime in the past. He denied having ever dealt drugs on the street. He also vehemently denied that he ever committed criminal heroin possession and sale as testified to by the police officers when they testified for the People. The district attorney began his cross-examination by asking the accused if he has ever had any criminal conviction at all prior to his arrest. The accused admitted that he was convicted as a youthful offender. The counsel for the accused did not object to the line of questioning that touched on the past criminal convictions of the accused.

The records show that the district attorney during the cross-examination of the accused asked him if he has ever in his life seen heroin. The accused answered affirmatively and asserted that he was a former heroin addict. It was at this time that the district attorney cross-examined the accused on his heroin usage in the past. The lawyer for the accused did not object to the district attorney’s line of questioning. The district attorney proceeded to question him as to the extent of his heroin usage. The accused admitted that he sniffed heroin intermittently until he was arrested. He also admitted that prior to that, he used to smoke marijuana.

During the summation and closing arguments in the trial, the district attorney harped on the former conviction of the accused and his former drug habit as circumstances that affect his credibility. A Queens Criminal Lawyer said the district attorney also compared the checkered past of the accused in contrast with the character of the highly-decorated police officers.

The jury convicted the accused and he was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment. The accused appealed his conviction. He claims that the district attorney’s cross-examination which delved into his past criminal convictions and his past addiction to heroin and marijuana unduly prejudiced the jury against him. He asks for a new trial, or in the alternative, he asks that his sentence be reduced.

The only question before the Court is whether or not the conviction of the accused was because the line of questioning of the district attorney unduly prejudiced the jury against him such that his sentence should be reduced, or, his conviction should be set aside and a new trial be ordered.

According to a Long Island Criminal Lawyer the Court held that the conviction of the accused was not attributable to undue prejudice on the part of the jury. Records reveal that it was the accused who began the inquiry with his assertion that he had never been convicted of a crime before. It was also the accused who revealed that his prior conviction was as a youthful offender and the adjudication for that charge was not conviction. It was also the accused who revealed that he was a former marijuana and heroin addict. While this put the accused’s character and credibility into question, this is not prohibited as the accused was testifying as a witness for himself. The prosecution had the duty to test the credibility of the witness.

What the Court found odious was that the sentence should be reversed. Three years’ imprisonment was harsh and inordinately disproportionate to the crime charged. The Court also found fault with the motivation of the trial court judge in handing down such a harsh sentence. The trial court judge concluded that his harsh sentence of a three year prison sentence was because the accused was a menace to society. The Court found that there was no evidence in the record to support this conclusion of the trial court judge.

Are you accused of criminal heroin possession? Were you sentenced with imprisonment that is disproportionate to the gravity of the offense with which you were convicted? You need the advice of a Bronx Drug Crime lawyer. At Stephen Bilkis and Associates, their Bronx Drug Crime Lawyers are willing to represent you. Their Bronx Drug Crime attorneys are willing to present facts and argue your case.

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