Clifton Park

New trial ordered in Clifton Park stabbing case

Encounter took place outside nightclub

CLIFTON PARK — A man convicted in a 2011 stabbing outside a Clifton Park nightclub should get a new trial because of ineffectiveness of his attorney, an appeals court found Thursday.

Daniel P. Taylor, 34, formerly of East Caroga Lake, sought a new trial, arguing that his trial attorney made key unexplained errors, including failing to use an important past statement against the main witness.

In a 3-2 decision, the Appellate Division of the state Supreme Court agreed and found he should receive a new trial. The two dissenting justice largely agreed, but found a new trial premature.

The case concerned the Nov. 26, 2011, incident outside Northern Lights. The jury convicted Taylor of second-degree assault, but acquitted him of the more-serious first-degree assault. Sentenced to seven years in prison on his original assault conviction, Taylor remains held. It was unclear how Thursday’s decision would affect his custody status.

Prosecutors contended Taylor stabbed Joseph Fritz, then 40, of Schenectady, in the parking lot after the two argued over whether Fritz was following Taylor’s girlfriend.

The two attended a two-day music festival called “Rat-a-tat-tat” that also included tattoo artists and tarot card readers and featured the band Sick of It All. Northern Lights is now called Upstate Concert Hall.

Fritz suffered a cut from one side of his rib cage to the other, two inches deep, prosecutors said. A physician happened to be in the area and saved Fritz’ life.

Taylor argued he was defending himself against a drunken attack by Fritz that he feared could hurt his previously injured shoulder.

A cabdriver proved the main witness in the case, the appeals court wrote. The man testified at trial that he saw Taylor push Fritz to the ground, crouched over him then ran away.

But, to police hours after the incident, the cabdriver gave a different account. He essentially indicated he didn’t see the assault, the court wrote. He saw the fight start across the parking lot, but they disappeared behind a van.

Taylor’s defense attorney, however, failed to cross-examine the cab driver with the older statement, and the appeals court could find no strategic or tactical reason why.

“As the people’s case rested almost entirely upon the testimony of the cabdriver, counsel’s efforts to undermine his credibility were of paramount importance,” the majority wrote.

The failure was magnified later in the trial by efforts of the attorney to get the statement into evidence. The jury even asked for it during deliberations, but it never got into evidence.

The majority found the cumulative effect of the issues required a new trial.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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