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Law School Case Brief

People v. Greene - 2007 NY Slip Op 9066, 9 N.Y.3d 277, 849 N.Y.S.2d 461, 879 N.E.2d 1280


A violation of a statute does not, without more, justify suppressing the evidence to which that violation leads. Courts have made an exception to this rule only when the principal purpose of a statute is to protect a constitutional right.


Anthony Berrios was shot to death on Oct. 16, 2001. Detective Michael Elliott was assigned to investigate the homicide. Elliott learned from the victim's aunt that, according to talk on the street, the shooting was the result of a fight on Oct. 13 in which a man had been slashed in the face. Elliott went to a nearby hospital and asked an administrator, "if anyone came in for a slashing to the face on that date." The administrator gave him defendant Temel Greene's name and address. With the help of a police computer, Elliott obtained Greene's arrest record and a photograph of him. A witness to the shooting identified the photograph; the trail led to more evidence against Greene. At trial in New York state curt, Greene filed a motion to suppress all evidence obtained as a result of the hospital's disclosure of Greene's name and address to Elliott. the trial court denied the motion, holding that the evidence obtained in violation of the physician-patient privilege need not be suppressed. Greene was convicted of second degree manslaughter. On Greene's appeal, the appellate division affirmed the denial of his motion to suppress. Greene appealed.


Did the trial court in denying Greene's motion to suppress on the ground that the physician-patient privilege in CPLR 4504 was violated?




The Court of Appeals of New York affirmed the order denying Greene's motion to suppress. The court found that even if there was a violation of the physician-patient privilege by the hospital administrator, the suppression of the evidence found as a result was not required. To suppress evidence resulting from a violation of § 4504 would be to punish the State for the administrator's misconduct—a punishment unlikely to deter doctors and hospitals, who had little interest in whether criminal prosecutions succeeded or not.

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