Does the Defendant Have the Right to Testify Before the Jury ?

In People v. Evans (79 N.Y.2d 407, 414-415, 583 N.Y.S.2d 358, 592 N.E.2d 1362 [1992]), the Court of Appeals said that the purpose of CPL 190.50 (5) is to "[protect] defendants' valued statutory option to appear at this critical accusatory stage to offer testimony that may affect the Grand Jury's consideration of the otherwise exclusive, ex parte presentment of evidence by the prosecution." In People v. Smith (84 N.Y.2d 998, 1000, 622 N.Y.S.2d 507, 646 N.E.2d 809 [1994]), the Court said that, pursuant to CPL 190.50, the defendant "must be given an opportunity to give her version of the events ... " In People v. Dunn (248 A.D.2d 87, 96, 685 N.Y.S.2d 648 [1st Dept 1998]), the Appellate Division, First Department said that the defendant "was not 'prevented from fully presenting his narrative account' to the Grand Jury and the mandate of CPL 190.50 (5) (b) was followed." This Court concludes that the CPL 190.50 (5) right to testify before the Grand Jury is the right of a defendant to fully present a narrative account of relevant historical events. This, essentially, is a defendant's version of what transpired at the relevant time and place. Pursuant to CPL 190.50 (5) (a); the District Attorney is required to notify a defendant of a pending Grand Jury proceeding where, as here, the defendant has been arraigned on an undisposed of felony complaint. " CPL 190.50 (5) (a) does not mandate a specific time period for notice; rather, reasonable time' must be accorded to allow a defendant an opportunity to consult with counsel and decide whether to testify before a Grand Jury" ( People v. Sawyer, 96 N.Y.2d 815, supra, at 816). "The concept of reasonableness is flexible and must be applied to the particular facts of a case known at the time" (People v. Sawyer. supra, at 815). Critical to a determination of whether the defendant was afforded a reasonable time to exercise his CPL 190.50 right to testify before the Grand Jury is an understanding of what the right to testify means. Although the Court has not found any pronouncement of the Court of Appeals or from any other authoritative source that explicitly defines the right to testify envisioned by the Legislature, there are several decisions that suggest the parameters of this right.