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Richard Cridelle

Other New York Exonerations With Inadequate Legal Defense
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In the early morning hours of May 27, 2010, police in Schenectady, New York were flagged down by a woman who said that a friend of hers was walking down the street and needed psychiatric help. The officers approached the 28-year-old woman, but she became combative when they attempted to put her in a squad car, punching a bystander on the street. She also accused the officers of stealing her crack pipe.

The officers managed to subdue the woman and took her to a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. A records check showed the woman had several past arrests for prostitution and for possession of cocaine. She told police at the hospital that one of her regular customers, 41-year-old Richard Cridelle, raped her after she agreed to trade oral sex for crack cocaine.

Police went to Cridelle’s residence on May 31. He allowed them to search the apartment, but nothing was seized. Cridelle then voluntarily accompanied the officers to the police station. There, police recorded an interrogation, during which Cridelle denied raping the woman. At the end of the interrogation, Cridelle was arrested and charged with first-degree rape, second-degree unlawful imprisonment, and third-degree assault.

In April 2011, Cridelle went to trial in Schenectady County Court. The woman testified that she was a prostitute and crack cocaine user, and that she had traded sex for drugs with Cridelle in the past. She said that in the early morning hours of May 27, 2010, Cridelle, whom she knew as “Green Eyes,” approached her on the street. She told the jury that she agreed to perform oral sex on Cridelle in exchange for crack cocaine.

She said they drove to a convenience store where they purchased soda, rolling papers for rolling joints, Starburst candy, and a box of condoms. They then went to Cridelle’s apartment where they both drank alcohol, she smoked crack cocaine, and Cridelle smoked marijuana. She said she then fell asleep, but was awakened by Cridelle repeatedly slapping her. She testified that he beat her and raped her.

The prosecution played a video of the police interrogation of Cridelle, during which he denied raping the woman. The video also included a portion in which Cridelle declined to speak to the detectives.

Cridelle testified that he came up to the complainant on the street and said he wanted “to get laid.” He said that they drank, ingested drugs and then had consensual sex. Cridelle told the jury that the woman showered afterward and left in a cab that he called.

Before the jury began deliberating, the judge dismissed the assault charge for lack of evidence. The jury began its deliberations at about 1 p.m. on April 5, 2011. Two hours later, the jury sent a note to the judge asking that juror number 4 be dismissed. The juror was brought into the courtroom and said she could not make a decision about someone’s guilt. The judge ordered all of the jurors and an alternate to come to the courtroom and sent them home for the day. He admonished them: “Don’t start deliberating until I get you all here (tomorrow).” The judge, outside of the jury’s presence, commented that juror number 4 was “grossly unqualified to serve,” but said he would resolve the matter the following morning.

The next day, before the status of juror number 4 could be addressed, another note came from the jury room saying that juror number 12 had failed to disclose during jury selection that he previously had been accused of a sex crime. The rest of the jurors doubted that juror number 12 could be fair.

After individually questioning juror number 4 (who now said she could deliberate) and juror number 12 (who said he mentioned that a relative had falsely accused him of a sex crime to demonstrate to other jurors how something could be fabricated), the judge allowed both jurors to continue deliberating. Later that day, April 6, 2011, the jury convicted Cridelle of first-degree rape and second-degree imprisonment. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

In December 2013, the New York State Supreme Court’s Appellate Division vacated the convictions and ordered a new trial. The appeals court found that juror number 4 should have been dismissed and replaced with the alternate.

The appeals court also noted that when the trial judge asked the jury foreman how the issue concerning juror number 12 came to light, the foreman responded, “He told us all in the jury room.” The judge then said, “And you’ve had discussions with the other jurors in his absence or not?” The foreman replied, “Yes.”

From that exchange, the appeals court concluded that it was “readily apparent from the record that the jury deliberated—on at least one occasion—with fewer than 12 members present.”

Cridelle went to trial a second time in September 2014. At Cridelle’s first trial, the prosecution presented the complaining witness’s medical records. Some of the records had been redacted and Cridelle’s attorney had not challenged the redaction. Cridelle was represented by a different attorney in the retrial, Adam Parisi, who successfully argued that the entire records should be disclosed. The un-redacted records revealed that the complainant had a history of substance-induced psychosis, a condition that involves detachment from reality. Parisi used that information when he cross-examined the woman after she testified at the second trial that Cridelle had raped her.

During cross-examination of the prosecution’s toxicologist, Parisi elicited testimony that long-term crack cocaine users frequently suffer from hallucinations and that ingesting crack keeps users awake instead of making them fall asleep. This contrasted with the woman’s testimony that she fell asleep while at Cridelle’s apartment. Parisi also presented evidence that the woman’s urine, which had been analyzed after she was taken to the hospital, contained chemicals commonly found in substances used to “cut” or dilute cocaine. That finding contradicted the complainant’s claim that she fell asleep. The toxicologist admitted during cross-examination that the chemicals in question, ingested in conjunction with cocaine, would have made it even harder for her to sleep.

In response to the woman’s claim that she was a non-violent, passive person, Parisi found police records that linked her to instances of violent behavior – including a video from a police car dash camera showing her punching a bystander as she was being arrested.

The prosecution again showed the jury the video of Cridelle’s interrogation, but the portions of the interrogation in which he declined to speak to the detectives were not shown after Parisi persuaded the judge to bar those segments on the ground that showing them would violate the defendant’s privilege against self-incrimination.

Cridelle did not testify at the second trial, but his testimony from the first trial—which included his denials that he raped the woman—was read to the jury.

On September 25, 2014, the jury acquitted Cridelle and he was released.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 10/6/2014
State:New York
County:Schenectady
Most Serious Crime:Sexual Assault
Additional Convictions:Other Violent Felony
Reported Crime Date:2010
Convicted:2010
Exonerated:2014
Sentence:20 years
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:41
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No