Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A New Third Department CPL §440.46 Class B Resentencing Case. Sort of.

On January 27, 2011 the Third Department decided People v. Marion Samuels.  Mr. Samuels had pleaded guilty in 2000 to a B felony on certain conditions.  Eventually he was sentenced to a lengthy indeterminate sentence.  Following the DLRA of 2009, Mr. Samuels applied for resentencing under CPL §440.46 in the Sullivan County Court.

Judge Labuda denied the application for resentence on January 6, 2010.  The Third Department reversed and remitted the matter back to County Court for redetermination of the defendant’s motion, but not for the reasons one might expect:

“We reverse. While County Court was entitled to deny
defendant's application if "substantial justice dictate[d]" such
a result (L 2004, ch 738, § 23; see CPL 440.46 [3]), it could not
base that denial upon misinformation or materially untrue
assumptions (see People v Naranjo, 89 NY2d 1047, 1049 [1997];
People v Braithwaite, 62 AD3d 1019, 1020-1021 [2009]). A court
is directed to consider a defendant's prison disciplinary history
in weighing his or her application for resentencing and, in this
case, defendant had incurred six disciplinary citations during
his current term of incarceration (see CPL 440.46 [3]). In its
decision, however, County Court overstated the severity of
several of them. While the People suggest that this
overstatement was a typographical error that did not affect
County Court's decision, we are not at liberty to make that
assumption. County Court's express mention of "three Tier III
hearings" in its decision "indicates that [it] probably
considered them to be material" (United States v Stein, 544 F2d
96, 102 [2d Cir 1976]; see Townsend v Burke, 334 US 736, 740
[1948]; People v Barnes, 60 AD3d 861, 863-864 [2009]; People v
Metellus, 46 AD3d 578, 579 [2007], lv denied 10 NY3d 814 [2008]).
As "material false assumptions as to any facts relevant to
sentencing . . . renders the entire sentencing procedure invalid
as a violation of due process," we must remit this matter for
County Court to redetermine defendant's motion (United States v
Malcolm, 432 F2d 809, 816 [2d Cir 1970]; see People v
Braithwaite, 62 AD3d at 1020-1021).”

Although the holding does not turn on issues specific to CPL §440.46, it stands as an excellent reminder to monitor the quality of the information relied upon by the sentencing court and to object to any “misinformation or materially untrue assumptions.”

Just to add to the confusion in this case, the Third Department also found it necessary to direct the lower Court to determine what exactly was the defendant’s actual original sentence: 12 ½ to 25 or the more unique sentence of 12 ½ to 20 years as it appears in the sentencing transcript.

Regardless of its reasons, the Third Department has ordered that Mr. Samuels be allowed to return to the Sullivan County Court for the court to reach the issue of whether "substantial justice dictates" that the application for resentence should be denied, this time without relying on any "material false assumptions." 

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