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People v. Abney
New York Court of Appeals
918 N.E.2d 486, 13 N.Y.3d 251 (2009), 31 Misc.3d 1231(A), 932 N.Y.S.2d 762 (2011)
Defendants in two cases were not permitted to have an expert testify regarding the trustworthiness of eyewitness testimony. In Abney, a 13-year-old girl was robbed at knifepoint, and the case hinged on her identification of the assailant because there was no supporting evidence linking Quentin Abney (defendant) to the crime. After the state (plaintiff) presented its case, Abney sought to introduce expert testimony regarding witness confidence, event stress, cross-racial identification, and the like. The judge denied the motion, and Abney was convicted. In Allen, two victims of a robbery by masked perpetrators at a barbershop identified Gregory Allen (defendant), who was known in the neighborhood, and there was supporting evidence that he was the perpetrator. The first victim selected Allen’s picture from a book of mug shots and from a small group of photographs. Later, a second eyewitness selected Allen’s picture from the same group of photographs. Allen moved to have an expert testify regarding factors affecting the accuracy of eyewitness testimony, such as unconscious transference and weapon focus. The judge denied the motion, and Allen was convicted. Both Abney and Allen appealed, and the appellate court affirmed in both cases. The defendants in both cases asked the New York Court of Appeals to determine whether the trial courts had abused their discretion in not allowing the expert testimony regarding the trustworthiness of eyewitness identifications.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Read, J.)
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