- the trial court did not disqualify, for cause, a juror who was the son-in-law and father of the grandchild of the prosecutor; and because
- the court precluded testimony of a witness to whom the alleged victim made a statement that the defendant did not commit the crime - the Brady evidence.
- that the defendant was forced by the court to take a relative of the DA, disqualified under CPL 270.20(1)(c).
CPL 270.20(1)(c ) is, of course, unconstitutional as it is construed now by courts, as it discriminates against criminal defendants by not allowing them challenges for cause against jurors who are not in an official registered marriage, which is a very large percentage of New York families - but that challenge is not relevant there, because the reversal talks about a "son-in-law" of DA Tantillo, even though I would like the public to know of this problem with the statute.
CPL 270.20(1)(c ) does not have to be changed to be made constitutional though, the only things that needs to be done is to start interpreting "affinity" in a way adequately reflecting family dynamics in New York.
Any attorney working in custody or domestic violence cases in Family Court in New York knows that the majority of cases come from unmarried couples, and that, in my view, reflects not the fact that somehow unmarried couples split and divide children more, or engage in domestic violence more than married couples, but that the family dynamic in New York has changed, and the concept of "affinity", in interpretation of courts, now needs to reflect that.
The problem with jury selection now is that jury questionnaires may ask about "affinity" in the narrowest sense - based on marriage of jurors to individuals listed in CPL 270.20(1)(c ) - but not on a partnership, with or without children, but without a registered marriage - and this may obscure and conceal biases and prevent fair voir dire and jury selection.
Here is the chart of consanguinity degrees:
That child's spouse has to be at least the 1st degree of affinity.
So, DA Tantillo's son-in-law had the 1st degree of affinity to DA Tantillo and was absolutely disqualified under CPL 270.20(1)(c ).
Yet, DA Tantillo opposed removal of his son-in-law from the jury for cause, knowing that his argument is against clear statutory law.
And, Judge Doran sided with DA Tantillo, knowing that both the judge's and the DA Tantillo's positions are against clear statutory law, leaving DA Tantillo's relative on the jury, and forcing the defendant to use one of his limited peremptory challenges to remove DA Tantillo's close relative (which defendant ran out of before the full jury was selected and impanelled).
The difference between challenges "for cause" and peremptory challenges in criminal jury selection in New York is that challenges for cause are unlimited, and peremptory (no cause) challenges are limited.
So, for a very large jury pool - jury pools have to be large in cases of alleged crimes involving children, as many people are prejudiced against the topic and will convict simply because a person is charged for such a thing - and with jury selection that may have many, many panels of jurors to weed through, Judge Doran and DA Tantillo robbed the defendant of 10% of chances (see CPL 270.25[c] allowing only 10 peremptory challenges in any felony cases below C felony, and Todd Collins was charged with a D felony) to strike down jurors without explaining to the obviously biased judge why he is doing it.
It is good that the 4th Department upheld the law and reversed the conviction.
It is bad that the 4th Department did not make a statement about prosecutorial and judicial bias and misconduct (the prosecutor, as a judge, is required to be unbiased in the case), to the point of trying to force the defendant into a Hobson's choice of either accepting the prosecutor's close relative on the jury (which was clearly against statutory law) or take him down by the use of 10% of the precious peremptory challenges - and running out of chances to disqualify one potential hold-out juror, which made a difference between a potential mistrial and a conviction.
Judge Doran's ruling in favor of illegal opposition of DA Tantillo was clearly biased in favor of prosecution - which was not an issue decided by the 4th Department, an appellate court that notoriously does not see issues of bias even if they are screaming in their faces.
The problem with not dealing with the issue of bias is that the 4th Department reversed and remanded the case to the same judge Doran and the same DA Tantillo who will now devise new tricks of how to screw the defendant in another way, in order to gain "tough of crime" and "child protector" badges, while illegally using a man as a stepping stone in their political careers.
It is interesting to mention that the court reversed and granted a new trial "on the first count of the indictment", thus implying that there were other counts upon which the defendant may have been still convicted.
But, Todd Collins' inmate information from the New York State Department of Corrections indicates that the conviction and sentencing for which he is incarcerated had only one count, so his entire conviction is reversed, and his sentencing, necessarily is made void - requiring his removal from state prison where he is serving that sentence, that became void as of December 23, 2016.
The second issue upon which the 4th Department reversed the conviction is that Judge Doran blocked testimony of a witness who wanted to testify that the alleged victim (the child under 11 years old) told the witness that the Todd Collins did not engage in sexual contact with the child.
As you understand, this D felony, with an extreme punishment of up to 7 years in prison (Collins got 6 out of 7), and a lifetime of being stripped of every plausible human right on release, as a registered sex offender and child molester, is provable by testimony only (he said - she said) in cases where "sexual contact" is simply touching - as in "he touched my child's breasts" - "but your child is 3 years old and he was picking her up by the armpits" (a real case, by the way), and blocking the testimony of a witness who claimed that the alleged victim told him that the defendant never committed the crime is of extreme importance and value in such criminal proceedings.
By the way, DA Tantillo had the audacity to oppose Todd Collins' the appeal where he had a clear personal interest.
And, Todd Collins now has to deal with the same biased DA and the same biased judge on re-trial.
I do not make claims whether Todd Collins "did it", or "did not do it".
I simply do not know.
But, his trial did not follow statutory law, he was robbed, by a biased and personally interested DA and by a biased judge of 2 years of his life already that he spent in state prison as a sex offender, with all indignities and dangers that sex offenders are exposed to in prisons, while now he is, first, not being released from prison despite he is presumed innocent, the State of New York stubbornly claims he is to remain incarcerated until 2020, even though his conviction has been voided a week ago, and - he is PRESUMED INNOCENT by law now.
I wonder whether such a thing as the law remains important nowadays.
And I do not wonder whether Judge Doran or DA Tantillo will be held accountable for their egregious misconduct in this case.
They won't be.
They already weren't.
Most likely people will react to this case by stating that a pervert and a pedophile got off on a technicality - failing to see that it is not only about Todd Collins, but about all of people coming in touch with New York criminal justice and court system in general.
If judges and prosecutors, government officials, are allowed to violate the law and rob people of years of their lives without any accountability, they will keep doing it, again, and again, and again, and will continue to climb the career ladder.
Using you as stepping stones.
Unless you the people demand accountability.