Recantation Evidence Found on Appeal in New York

In People v. Shilitano, 218 NY 161, 169-71, 112 N.E. 733, 34 N.Y. Cr. 358 (1916), rearg. denied, 218 N.Y. 702, 113 N.E. 1064 (1916), the Court of Appeals found recantation evidence, made a year after the trial, unworthy of belief and an "extraordinary production" for many reasons, including that the trial testimony was "reasonable and probable," and the recantation "puts too great a strain upon our credulity and the manner in which she tells it arouses suspicion, which, when the other circumstances are considered . . . ripens into a conviction that the recanting testimony is false." The Court also considered "the efforts of defendant's friends to induce the witnesses to maintain a favorable attitude towards the defendant." (Shilitano, supra.) Furthermore, the Court of Appeals also considered the opinion of the trial court, which found that: During the trial . . . these witnesses were laboring under great fear lest they would incur, in giving their testimony. . . . That prior to the trial and since the trial vigorous efforts were unremittingly prosecuted by . . . defendant's brother to poison the wells of justice and that sinister means were used to involve these ignorant men in palpable contradiction, and in that way to assist the defendant. That rewards were held out to them and threats made to do them bodily harm if they did not make statements. (Shilitano, supra.) The Court of Appeals concluded by noting that: Another circumstance persuasive of the defendant's guilt is the effort made . . . to influence and even to intimidate those who they believe could testify against the defendant. . . . The circumstance that these friends and agents of the defendant presented . . . instead of strengthening the defendant's case seem to me to case suspicion upon it. . . . The fact that great efforts were exerted to procure the affidavits suggests this inference. . . . Witnesses called by the people was or has been . . . shown to have been paid money by the defendant's mother. . . . These circumstances, in addition to the direct testimony which the jury believed to be credible, establishes the guilt of the defendant. The conviction . . . is in no way shaken by the suspicious recanting statement. (Shilitano, supra.)