1. Whether an erroneous jury instruction as to counts of criminal sale and possession of one type of controlled substance had a prejudicial "spillover effect" on remaining charges for criminal sale and possession of other controlled substances, criminal sale of a prescription of a controlled substance and failure to label a prescription drug.
2. Whether the People's failure to turn over certain Medicaid records that defendant once possessed and could have procured through due diligence constituted a violation of the People's disclosure obligations under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), and its progeny.
1. No. There was no reasonable possibility that the jury's decision to convict on the tainted counts influenced its guilty verdict on the remaining counts in a meaningful way. No reversal of the remaining counts is required.
2. No. The Brady doctrine requires that prosecutors turn over material exculpatory to the defendant, but does not require prosecutors to supply a defendant with "material that the defendant knew of or should have reasonably known of the evidence and its exculpatory nature." The materials in question were billing statements that were essentially generated by the defendant.
This appeal concerned the conviction of Priyakant Doshi on 21 counts of criminal sale of a controlled substance, criminal sale of a prescription for a controlled substance, criminal possession of a controlled substance, and failure to label a prescription drug. Four of these counts were subsequently vacated due to an erroneous jury instruction.
Defendant maintained a general psychiatry practice out of two offices in downtown Manhattan during the early 1990's. During this period, defendant amassed a large quantity of controlled substances and wrote an unusually large number of prescriptions for these substances. Two undercover agents for the Attorney General's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, one a former patient of the defendant, posed as recreational drug users and purchased a variety of controlled substances from the defendant. The defendant sold the agents controlled substances with the knowledge that the agents were "addicts" and that the substances would be used recreationally.
At trial, the defendant contended that his actions in selling and prescribing the controlled substances were in the good faith practice of psychiatry. In the jury's instruction, the trial court charged the jury that with respect to the four counts related to defendant's sale and possession of one substance, lorazepam 2.5mg, the defendant's good faith was irrelevant. The jury voted to convict on 16 counts, and acquitted on 5.
The defendant moved to vacate the judgment, alleging that the People failed to supply certain documents in violation of their Brady obligations. The motion was denied by the Supreme Court. The Appellate Division affirmed the denial of defendant's motion to vacate, but then vacated judgment on the four counts relating to lorazepam. It held that the trial court's erroneous instruction on defendant's good faith argument essentially directed a guilty verdict. Defendant appealed the denial of his motion to vacate, and the Court of Appeals here affirmed the Appellate Division ruling.
The defendant argued that the trial court's erroneous instruction that the defendant's good faith was irrelevant to the lorazepam charges irremediably tainted his other convictions. For this reason, defendant argued, the remainder of the convictions should be reversed. The Court rejected this argument, holding that the erroneous instruction could not have had more than a tangential effect on the remaining charges.
Evaluating the possibility of "spillover" errors, called for, the Court said, case-by case analysis assessing whether there is a "reasonable possibility" that the jury's decision to convict on the tainted counts influenced the guilty verdict in a "meaningful way." If so, the court should reverse the remaining charges. If the jury's decision to convict on the erroneous charges only had a "tangential effect" on its decision to convict on the remaining charges, then the conviction will stand.
The Court here held that the jury's decision to convict on the erroneous lorazepam charges could not have had more than a tangential effect on the remaining conviction. Further, the Court stated, the fact that the jury voted to acquit on five of those remaining counts belies the defendant's argument that the jury's lorazepam conviction had a prejudicial effect on the remaining counts.
With respect to the second issue, the Court held defendant's argument that prosecutors violated Brady obligations in their failure to supply certain Medicaid records to be without merit. While the Brady doctrine requires that prosecutors turn over exculpatory materials, it does not require prosecutors to supply the defendant with "evidence when defendant knew of, or should reasonably have known of the evidence and its exculpatory nature." Because the materials in question were billing statements essentially generated by the defendant, the prosecution had no duty to turn them over to the defense when the defendant could have obtained them himself through the maintenance of his business records.