People v MartinezAnnotate this Case
Decided on July 2, 2013
Supreme Court, Kings County
The People of the State of New York
Aldo Martinez, Defendant.
Attorney for the Petitioner:
Michael A. Cardoza, Esq.
NYC Corporation Counsel
100 Church Street, Room 2-185
New York, NY 10007
by Gloria M. Yi, Esq.
Center for Battered Women's Legal Services
at Sanctuary for Families in New York City
40 Exchange Place, 10th Floor
New York, NY 10005
by Dorchen A. Leidholdt, Director
Attorney for the Defendant:
Brooklyn Defender Services
177 Livingston Street, 5th Floor
Brooklyn, NY 11201
by Joseph Indusi, Esq.
Attorney for the People:
Charles J. Hynes
District Attorney, Kings County
350 Jay Street, 15th Floor
Brooklyn, NY 11201
by ADA Tracey Downing
Matthew J. D'Emic, J.
In this domestic violence prosecution the defendant is charged with strangulation in the second degree. In preparation of his defense, the defendant served a subpoena on the Brooklyn Family Justice Center seeking "any and all records pertaining to" the complaining witness. The subpoenaed party now moves to quash the subpoena and for a protective order pursuant to CPLR §§ 2304 and 3103. Sanctuary for Families Center for Battered Women's Legal Services supports the application as amicus curiae by affidavit of its director Dorchen A. Leidholdt.
The motion raises both procedural and substantive objections to the subpoena. Since both sides have fully submitted supporting and opposing papers, the court deems the procedural issues moot, and will only address the substantive issues.
Domestic violence is a most serious threat to the safety of women and children in this country. The Justice Department
estimates that two million women are severely assaulted by their partners annually, and fully one-third of emergency room visits by women stem from domestic abuse. In our own city, Brooklyn had the highest rate of reported domestic violence last year, according to the New York State Department of Criminal Justice Services, including 22 homicides. These statistics reflect the decision faced by women every day. Stay and put up with the abuse or leave and risk an escalation of violence.
For those who choose the latter course, their safety and that of their children often depends on secrecy. Confidentiality as to assistance is essential, not only to protect their identity and whereabouts, but to encourage victims to seek help to escape abuse without fear of retribution for informing to outside parties.
An important response to this societal dilemma came from the New York City Mayor's Office to Combat Domestic Violence in the establishment of the Brooklyn Family Justice Center in 2005. Funded by the United States Justice Department's Office on Violence Against Women, it coordinates an array of services for domestic violence victims in one location. In essence, it is a clearing house through which services can be accessed at a time of crisis. Although the Center takes pedigree information for statistical purposes required by its grantor, it does not itself provide services, and strict confidentiality is observed by the agencies located within its walls.
The defendant, on the other hand, asserts that these records are relevant and necessary to his effective cross-examination of the complainant in probing her motive and credibility. While it is true that cross-examination includes the right to "sift the conscience of the witness to determine if his or her story is worthy of belief" (Clark v District Court, 668 P.3d 8 [Supreme Court of Colorado, 2005]), it must on occasion bow to public policy considerations, in this case the security and safety of troubled women and families looking for help. This is especially true in [*2]this case where the nature of the information sought is of limited value and there is an express statutory preference for confidentiality (42 USC §19925 [b]). Additionally, the defendant points to no particularly material information, but rather seeks information marginal and tangential to the charges against him (Pennsylvania v Ritchie, 480 US 39; People v Mandel, 48 NY2d 952; People v Brown, 303 AD2d 175). In fact, this decision will have little or no impact on his right to face-to-face confrontation or full and effective cross-examination, but will greatly benefit the safety of visitors to the Family Justice Center.
Public policy, therefore, requires that the petitioner's motion to quash be granted (Maryland v Craig, 497 US 836; People v Boyea, 222 AD2d 937). In matters concerning intimate partner abuse, the promise of help without confidentiality is an empty one.
This constitutes the Decision and Order of the court.
Matthew J. D'Emic