In one of its last decisions of 2014, the Court of Appeals held that it will begin reviewing the Appellate Division’s summary denials of CPL 440.10(1)(g) motions. The Court had held in People v. Crimmins, 38 N.Y.2d 407, 409 (1974) that
[t]he power to review a discretionary order denying a motion to vacate judgement upon the ground of newly discovered evidence ceases at the Appellate Division.
For nearly 40 years, the Crimmins decision kept the Court of Appeals from reviewing and determining whether such denials constituted “abuse of discretion.” People v. Jones, No. 14-219, ___ N.E.3d ___, 2014 N.Y. Slip Op. 08760, 2 (Dec. 16, 2014). In Jones, this Court overruled itself and explained that “the rule enunciated in Crimmins has needlessly restricted this Court’s power of review concerning CPL 440.10(1)(g) motions….”
In Jones, the Court held that the Appellate Division abused its discretion in summarily denying a defendant’s motion for an evidentiary hearing as part of his efforts to vacate his conviction on the ground of newly discovered evidence, pursuant to CPL 440.10(1)(g). Mr. Jones claimed that newly discovered DNA evidence would exclude him as the perpetrator of crimes of which he was convicted in 1981. This decision signals a step in the right direction for the NY judiciary trying to grapple with evidence, like DNA, that may not have been available at the time of trial.