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People v. Ortega
New York Court of Appeals
942 N.E.2d 210 (2010)
A man approached Oldalys Ortega (defendant) and asked him for marijuana. According to the man, Ortega and a companion then used guns to force him to smoke crack cocaine, withdraw money from nearby automated-teller machines using his own bank cards, smoke more crack cocaine, and withdraw more money. The man then managed to escape and was taken to a hospital. The man told the hospital staff that he had been forced to smoke a white substance from a pipe, and this was noted in the man’s hospital records. That evening, Ortega was pulled over for a traffic violation. Crack cocaine, the man’s cell phone, and the man’s identification and bank cards were found in Ortega’s car. Ortega claimed that the man had smoked crack cocaine, withdrawn money, and left his possessions with Ortega voluntarily. At trial, the man’s hospital records, including the note about the man being forced to smoke a white substance, were admitted as evidence under the business-records exception for hearsay. Ortega was convicted and appealed. On appeal, the intermediate appellate court determined that even if the hospital note was inadmissible, its admission was a harmless error. Ortega appealed again, and the New York Court of Appeals accepted review of the evidentiary issue.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Lippman, C.J.)
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