Does the Decision to Accept a Proposed 'Stipulation' Lie Within the Prosecutor's Discretion ?

In People v. Hills (140 A.D.2d 71, 532 N.Y.S.2d 269), the defendant offered to "stipulate" that the victim suffered "serious physical injury" in an attempt to preclude the prosecution from displaying to the trial jury photographs which showed the victim's severe injuries. The prosecution refused to accept the proposed "stipulation." The trial court also refused to accept the proposed "stipulation." On appeal, the defendant claimed that the trial court's refusal to accept the "stipulation" was error. The Appellate Division, Second Department, stated: First, we address the question, never before expressly decided in this State, of whether a prosecutor may be compelled to stipulate to an element of a charged crime. We hold that except in situations where a statute provides otherwise (see, e.g., CPL 200.60), the decision as to whether to decline or accept such a stipulation lies wholly within the prosecutor's discretion. The court stated that the case was one of first impression and that the prosecution could not be required to stipulate. The decision held that the right to decide whether to stipulate was "solely" within the province of the People. Unfortunately, the Appellate Division, Second Department, did not mention its own decision in Vergari v. Walsh (90 A.D.2d 801, 455 N.Y.S.2d 673) nor did it discuss any of the Court of Appeals decisions that had been decided prior to Hill. The court relied on the fact that a stipulation is an agreement between two parties and that the People refused to "stipulate" (77-78). The Appellate Division, Second Department, did not discuss the concept of concessions or admissions, which is the way they had viewed the "stipulation" in Vergari and the way the Court of Appeals had phrased the matter in the cases noted above.