PEOPLE v. ROLLAND

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Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department, New York.

The PEOPLE of the State of New York, Respondent, v. Robert ROLLAND, Defendant-Appellant.

Decided: June 28, 2001

ROSENBERGER, J.P., ANDRIAS, WALLACH, LERNER and BUCKLEY, JJ. Jamie Bachrach, for Respondent. Abigail Everett, for Defendant-Appellant.

Judgment, Supreme Court, New York County (Nicholas Figueroa, J.), rendered March 30, 1999, convicting defendant, after a jury trial, of murder in the second degree, and sentencing him to a term of 25 years to life, unanimously affirmed.

 The court properly exercised its discretion in precluding defendant from introducing an out-of-court statement under a declaration against penal interest theory (see, People v. Settles, 46 N.Y.2d 154, 167-170, 412 N.Y.S.2d 874, 385 N.E.2d 612;  People v. Giap, 273 A.D.2d 54, 709 N.Y.S.2d 62, lv. denied 95 N.Y.2d 872, 715 N.Y.S.2d 227, 738 N.E.2d 375).   The declarant claimed to have been a lookout in the instant felony murder, and named three supposed accomplices, none of whom were defendant or either of his two separately convicted codefendants.   The court properly found this declaration to be totally unreliable.   The declarant's statement, in which he initially denied any personal involvement in the instant crime, was motivated entirely by a desire to obtain lenient treatment for himself in an unrelated case;  the declarant later recanted;  and the declarant never implicated a person whose guilt was conclusively established through fingerprint evidence as well as that person's confession and guilty plea in this case.   The only evidence arguably supporting the reliability of the declaration was that one of the persons named was identified as a perpetrator.   However, that identification was clearly established to be mistaken and the charges against that individual were dismissed.   Moreover, under all the circumstances, there was no showing that the declarant had competent knowledge of the underlying facts, notwithstanding his unsupported assertion that he was a fourth participant in the crime.

 The court properly admitted limited testimony about a nontestifying codefendant's statement inculpating defendant in order to explain what led detectives to interview defendant five years after the crime occurred, since the defense opened the door to admission of the statement by way of its allegations of a police conspiracy (see, People v. Simpson, 256 A.D.2d 205, 682 N.Y.S.2d 376, lv. denied 93 N.Y.2d 902, 689 N.Y.S.2d 714, 711 N.E.2d 990;  cf., People v. Cruz, 249 A.D.2d 136, 672 N.Y.S.2d 26, lv. denied 92 N.Y.2d 924, 680 N.Y.S.2d 465, 703 N.E.2d 277).   We have considered and rejected defendant's remaining arguments.