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Court Discusses Mental Hygiene Law Proceedure


This case is being heard in the Supreme Court of the state of New York in New York County. The People of the State of New York are the petitioners in this matter.

Case Facts

A New York Criminal Lawyer said the respondent in this case, pled guilty in 1968 to Rape and Robbery in the first degree. This plea satisfied numerous charges of rape, sodomy, robbery, assault, and other charges that arose from several attacks on women that he had allegedly committed around the City College campus in Manhattan. He was sentenced to five to fifteen years for this guilty plea. However, after several appeals his plea of guilty was invalidated by a grant from the Supreme Court of a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. It was found by the court that the defendant was not mentally competent at the time of the plea that had led to his conviction a decade earlier. This decision was affirmed and Suggs was released from prison in 1978.

He was free for a total of 28 days before being charged with rape again. He was convicted of rape and robbery in 1978. He received a sentence of 74 months to 20 years. Upon release from prison for this conviction, the defendant was convicted of rape in the first degree by forcible compulsion in 1996. For this charge he received a sentence of 12 and 1/2 years. During this time the state filed a petition for sex offender civil management.

The SOMTA jury trial began on the 18th of January, 2011, and ended on the 28th of January. Two psychologists gave testimony during the trial and concluded that Suggs suffered from a mental abnormality as described by the Mental Hygiene Law.

Before this case was closed the State opted to call the respondent as a witness. The respondent objected stating the State was not entitled to call him to the stand against his will in an Article 10 proceeding. The State had alerted both the respondent and the court that they might move to call the respondent as a witness in the case.

The court denied the motion for the State to call the respondent as a witness. The trial concluded with the jury verdict finding that the defendant suffered from a mental abnormality. A New York Sex Crimes Lawyer said the respondent was ordered to continued confinement in a secure treatment facility and a hearing was scheduled to determine whether the respondent should remain confined or be placed on a regimen of strict intensive supervision.

Court Discussion and Decision

The question that is before the court is the issue of a first impression under the Sex Offender Management and Treatment Act of the State of New York, with the question being whether or not a state can call a respondent to testify as a witness during an Article 10 Mental Hygiene Trial.

It is the court’s opinion that the specific provisions provided by Article 10 over ride the more general provisions in Article 45 of the CPLR that provides a person cannot be excused from being called as a witness because the person has an interest in the outcome of the case or is a party to the case. A Suffolk County Criminal Lawyer said it is found that in the cases involving Article 10 the right of a respondent to refuse to testify is a provision to the above.

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