On April 19, 2016, just two weeks after reversing convictions in two OAD appeals, the Appellate Division again reversed two convictions in OAD cases.
In People v. Ronald Hechavarria, the Appellate Division reversed our client’s robbery conviction and sentence of 15 years, based on the trial court’s improper ruling granting a reverse-Batson challenge against the defense. As explained in the decision, there was no support for the judge’s conclusion that defense counsel’s gender-neutral reasons for the peremptory challenges at issue were pretextual. In this case, the prosecution sought the minimum sentence of 5 years after trial, but the court imposed a term of 15 years. On appeal, the DA agreed to a sentence reduction to 5 years, but the court went further and reversed the conviction. Mr. Hechavarria has been out on bail pending appeal and should remain free pending resolution of the case. Mr. Hechavarria is represented by Senior Staff Attorney Kerry Jamieson. Read the decision here.
In People v. Malik Hawkins, the Appellate Division, in a unanimous signed opinion by Justice Roslyn H. Richter, reversed our client’s gun possession conviction and 5 year sentence. The Appellate Division found that the trial court erred in allowing the prosecution to introduce photographs showing the defendants holding guns and making gang signs, as well as Facebook messages from our client months after the date of the arrest, discussing his use of guns. The court held that this evidence was inadmissible under the Molineux rule, since they were not probative and went only to propensity to possess guns. The court further held that, even if marginally probative, the prejudicial impact outweighed any probative value. Mr. Hawkins is represented by Rosie Herbert, who argued the appeal. Former OAD Staff Attorney Leila Tabbaa (now with The Bronx Defenders) worked on the brief while at OAD. Read the decision here,