Grand jury proceedings were defective
By: Bennett Loudon, Daily Record Staff
A Monroe County Court Judge has dismissed an indictment charging a man with second-degree burglary because of insufficient evidence presented to the grand jury.
Defendant John M. Cornish was accused of stealing a safe from the home of Ryan Casler, in Brighton.
Defense attorney Robert A. Napier asked Judge Christopher S. Ciaccio to review grand jury minutes, claiming the proceedings were defective.
The main evidence in the case was two fingerprints: one on a sliding glass door at the rear of the home and another on the door frame. The prints matched Cornish, but other prints, which did not match Cornish, also were found on the door.
Cornish had been to Casler's home several times most recently about six days before the break in. And when he was there, Cornish had gone in and out of the sliding glass door, which led to a deck.
"The defendant's fingerprints on the exterior of the sliding glass door and any inferences that logically flow from that fact do not supply proof of every element of the crime of burglary in the second degree," Ciaccio wrote in the decision dated January 26.
"The inference that the defendant stole the safe flows no more logically than the conclusion that one of the many other persons who had visited the residence had touched the sliding glass door had stolen the safe", he wrote.
The grand jury proceedings also were tainted by testimony that would have been inadmissible at trial. Ciaccio said.
Casler testified to the grand jury that he talked to Cornish after the break-in, Cornish "responded in a very odd way."
"He didn't seem to respond in the way I would have thought I would have responded if he had said the same thing to me," Casler told the grand jury.
"This testimony was entirely improper as it contained impermissible opinion and state of mind testimony. The grand jury should have been told to disregard the testimony. It wasn't," Ciaccio wrote.
A police officer also testified about statements made to him by a man who had been with the defendant shortly after the break-in. The officer compared the man's statements with contradictory statements he made at a later time.
"The comparison was intended to show the grand jury that there was an inconsistency as to where the defendant was purported to be at the time of the larceny and that the man was somehow covering for him," Ciaccio wrote.
But the man's statements were "obviously hearsay" which required special instructions to the grand jury, according to Ciaccio.
"Considering the circumstantial and limited nature of the evidence connecting the defendant to the crime charge, the testimony set forth above and the prosecutions failure to cure it, the integrity of the grand jury proceeding was impaired to the extent that the defendant was prejudiced. Dismissal is required," Ciaccio wrote.