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New York Appellate Court Reverses Decision and Orders New Trial Regarding Use of Justification Defense


(People v. A., NY Slip Op 00894)

This is an appeal from a Supreme Court decision dated 8/26/15, convicting the defendant of assault in the first degree.

The court ordered that the judgment be reversed and a new trial is ordered.

The defendant attacked his roommate, slashed his neck, and stabbed him in the abdomen with a kitchen knife. He was charged with second degree attempted murder, 2 counts of first-degree assault and the lesser offenses of 2nd and 3d degree assault and 4th-degree criminal possession of a weapon. The jury acquitted him of all charges except the first-degree assault with intent to cause great bodily harm.

The defendant argues that his justification defense wasn’t discredited beyond a reasonable doubt. The court stated that it was legally sufficient to disprove the defendant’s argument (Peo v. Contes 60 NY2d 620, 621). The court adds that it accords great deference to the jury’s opportunity to hear testimony, view the witnesses, and observe the demeanor. The court is satisfied that the decision wasn’t made against the weight of the evidence.

The court had decided, however, that the judge must reverse the decision because of Supreme Court inadequately charged the jury regarding the justification defense.

In a claim involving self-defense, the court must instruct the jury that if the defendant is found not guilty of the greater charge of attempted murder, it is not to consider lesser counts (Peo v Valez 131 AD3d 129, Peo v Colasuonno 135 AD3d 418). It can be determined whether the acquittal of the attempted murder charge was based on the jury’s finding of justification so as to mandate an acquittal on the lesser charges (Peo v Feuer 11 AD3d 633, Peo v Roberts 280 AD2d 415).

Therefore, the conviction must be reversed. The court is remitting the matter for a new trial. In viewing the evidence in light of what is most favorable to the defendant, there was a reasonable review of the evidence that the defendant was either aware and chose to consciously disregard that a substantial risk of injury would occur (PL 120.00[2]; 15.05[3] or PL 120.00[3] or didn’t perceive a justifiable risk of physical injury, and didn’t cause serious bodily injury to the victim.

Criminal charges are a serious matter. If you have been charged with murder, assault, criminal possession of a weapon or other offense, it is important to seek legal guidance as soon as possible. Contact Stephen Bilkis and Associations for guidance and a free consultation. It is important to not delay. The sooner you contact our office, the sooner we can set to work creating an aggressive defense strategy to ensure that your rights are protected.

We have offices to serve you throughout the New York area, including locations in Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island, the Bronx, Nassau County, Suffolk County and Westchester County. Call us today at 1-800-NYNYLAW.


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