People V. Morrison: Some Anxious Observations on the Court of Appeals' O'rama Jurisprudence

By Shechtman, Paul | Albany Law Review, Summer 2019 | Go to article overview

People V. Morrison: Some Anxious Observations on the Court of Appeals' O'rama Jurisprudence


Shechtman, Paul, Albany Law Review


A politician once said, "I'm not known to make many mistakes, but when I do, it's a doozie." (1) The Court of Appeals' ("Court") decision last term in People v. Morrison (2) is a doozie. One can confidently say that no other jurisdiction in the country would reverse a defendant's conviction for raping a 90-year-old Alzheimer's patient because the trial judge may not have shared the exact contents of a jury note with defense counsel, even though counsel was aware of the note's existence and never objected to the judge's conduct.

I.

A. Morrison: Factual Background

William Morrison worked as an aide at a nursing home in Rome, New York where Helen Smith, a 90-year-old Alzheimer patient, was a resident. (3) On May 24, 2006, Morrison put Smith on her bed, penetrated her and ejaculated. (4) As he left the room, she told him that she was "going to tell on [him]," which she did. (5) An examination revealed the presence of semen in her vagina, and DNA testing confirmed that Morrison was its source. (6) Morrison later confessed to having intercourse with Smith, signing a statement in which he told the police that he had been sexually abused as a child and this was a chance to reverse roles. (7)

An Oneida County grand jury indicted Morrison for Rape in the First Degree, Sexual Abuse in the First Degree, Endangering the Welfare of a Vulnerable Elderly Person in the Second Degree, and Willful Violation of Health Laws. (8) Morrison's trial, which had twice been postponed and garnered considerable media attention, began on Monday, February 26, 2007. (9) The judge was eager to finish it by Friday, having scheduled another trial for the next week. (10) For that reason, when deliberations began late Wednesday afternoon, the judge offered the jurors the option of staying past 4:30 p.m. (11) They chose instead to come back the next morning and were excused for the night. (12)

On Thursday, the judge addressed four jury notes requesting legal instructions, exhibits and read-backs of testimony. (13) In each instance, before giving his response, he read the note into the record in the jury's presence. (14) At 4:30 p.m., the jury sent out two more notes in rapid succession. (15) The first revealed a partial verdict: "We have made a decision on the Third Count [the endangering count] we are having hard time with 1 and 2 just giving you are [sic] status." (16) The second note revised the first: "We have arrived on decision on 2 [the sexual abuse count] and 3. [B]ut we have a lot of work to do on #1. [D]on[']t see it being quick. Not sure what to do. We ars [sic] starting to make way." (17)

The judge marked the two notes as Court Exhibits 8 and 9, respectively, and recalled the jury. (18) He then told the jurors, "I have received a note, which I have marked as Court Exhibit Number 9, and I will not read that into the record, but I'm sure you know what it says." (19) He stated, "[W]e are hoping that at some point you will be able to come to a unanimous verdict on all three of the charges," and gave a mild Allen-like instruction, encouraging the jurors to "listen to what the other jurors have to say" but not to "just abandon your feelings to reach a unanimous verdict." (20) After telling the jury, "[W]e as a group would like you to keep working," he gave them the choice of deliberating "another hour tonight" or returning in the morning, and they chose the latter course. (21)

On Friday, the jury sent four more notes containing requests for further legal instructions. (22) The judge again read the notes into the record in the jury's presence before responding to them. (23) After the fourth note, he gave another Allen-like instruction. (24) That afternoon, the jury returned a guilty verdict on all three counts. (25) Morrison, who had one prior felony conviction and five misdemeanor convictions and lied to get the nursing job, was sentenced to twenty-five years imprisonment on the rape count with lesser sentences on the other counts, to run concurrently. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

People V. Morrison: Some Anxious Observations on the Court of Appeals' O'rama Jurisprudence
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.