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National Crime Victim Law Institute

People v. McCray, — N.E.3d —, 2014 WL 1697020 (N.Y. May 1, 2014)

May 15, 2014

Defendant appealed his conviction of first-degree rape, arguing that the trial court erred in failing to grant him access to all of the victim’s mental health records. Defendant and the victim differed in their accounts of the encounter at issue, with defendant claiming it was consensual and the victim claiming it was rape. Before trial defendant sought the victim’s mental health records. The court ordered that the records be reviewed in camera and eventually provided defendant with 28 pages out of the thousands of documents in the records. During trial, evidence revealed that the victim had been diagnosed with a number of psychiatric and other medical conditions, including bipolar disorder, Tourette’s syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder, and hypersexuality. The evidence also revealed that she had reported that she could sense the presence of dead people, was undergoing mental health treatment at the time of the incident, and took medications. Following his conviction, defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court violated his rights of confrontation and cross-examination by limiting disclosure of the records. On appeal, the court recharacterized the issue as one better analyzed under Brady. The court reviewed the undisclosed documents, which contained references to the victim having hallucinations and to the victim’s tendency to misremember or misunderstand events. The undisclosed records also referenced the victim’s 2004 allegation that her father had attempted to sexually assault her, which was deemed “unfounded” in a separate record. The records also revealed that the victim made several previous complaints of sexual abuse that stemmed from individuals taking advantage of her hypersexuality before she reached 18-years-old. After reviewing the evidence and the undisclosed documents, the court found that the records were either cumulative or of little if any relevance to the case. In regards to the victim’s prior complaints of sexual abuse, the court distinguished them from the current case in that they did not involve claims of violence to force sex on her. The court also found that the victim’s allegations against her father were removed in time from the current charge and were factually disparate. Regarding the records that referenced the victim’s tendency towards misunderstanding and misremembering, the court reasoned that in this case no juror could find that her claim of rape would be a failure to recollect or misunderstand the situation. For these reasons, the court held that the trial court could have reasonably concluded that there was no more than a remote possibility that the disclosure of the records would lead to defendant’s acquittal, and it was within the trial court’s discretion to find the victim’s legitimate interest in confidentiality outweighed the records’ relevance. The court then affirmed defendant’s conviction.

 

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