People v. Benston

15 N.Y.3d 610 (2010)

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People v. Benston

New York Court of Appeals
15 N.Y.3d 610 (2010)

  • Written by Haley Gintis, JD

Facts

On October 3, 2004, Benston (defendant) was told by the complainant to move out of her apartment. Benston began assaulting and choking the complainant with a scarf and belt. The complainant was eventually able to reach her phone to call the police. The police arrested Benston and drove the complainant to the hospital. The attending physician diagnosed the complainant with domestic violence and asphyxiation. The diagnosis was documented in the complainant’s medical record along with a description of the items used during the strangulation. The medical record also included the facts that Benston was the complainant’s former boyfriend, that Benston had a history of abuse, and that a safety plan had been created for the complainant. Following the episode, the complainant was granted an order of protection against Benston, which Benston repeatedly violated. The State of New York (plaintiff) charged Benston with attempted murder as well as other charges including assault, harassment, and contempt. At trial, the state introduced the complainant’s medical records. The defense counsel moved to redact certain portions of the record. The trial judge redacted all references to the history of abuse and the fact that a complaint had been filed against Benston. The trial judge allowed the references to domestic violence, the previous romantic relationship, the weapons used, and the safety plan. A jury acquitted Benston for the attempted-murder charge but convicted him on all other charges. Benston appealed the conviction arguing that the trial court erred in allowing the various facts in the medical record to be admitted into evidence. Benston also argued that because he and the complainant were platonic at the time of the incident, he could not be convicted of domestic violence.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Lippman, J.)

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