In People v. McCoy, the defendant was convicted of three counts of criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree and four counts of criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree. The convictions were based on the defendant being found to have constructively possessed a gun. Constructive possession of a firearm occurs when a defendant was not found in actual physical possession of the firearm, but was found to have had control over the area where the firearm was found. After being sentenced to 12 years in prison, the defendant appealed his convictions.
The defendant’s arrest stems from an incident during which the defendant’s live-in girlfriend observed the defendant hammering a step in the attic of these in which they lived. The next day, when the defendant was out of the house, she pulled up the step and found a plastic bag containing several guns. After showing her sister, who also lived in the house, the girlfriend called the police. The police arrived at the house and removed the guns. However, no fingerprints or DNA were found on the gun. In addition to the defendant, the girlfriend, the girlfriend’s sister, the downstairs neighbors also had access to the attic. Nonetheless, the defendant was arrested and charged with several charges of criminal possession of a weapon.
On appeal, the defendant challenged the legal sufficiency of the evidence. Because several other people had access to the attic and because his DNA was not found on the guns, the defendant argued that there was not sufficient evidence presented at trial to support a finding that he exercised dominion and control over the area in which the guns were found. Thus, the defendant concluded, the jury should not have convicted him of criminal possession of a weapon. Even though on appeal the court found that the defendant did not raise this particular argument in his motion to dismiss, the court still reviewed this issue in the context of evaluating whether all elements of the charged crimes were proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
The court concluded that the defendant’s argument had merit as it would not have been unreasonable for the jury to have acquitted defendant of the charges, based on the evidence presented. It was established that other people had access to the attic and that the girlfriend’s eyewitness testimony was inconsistent. Nonetheless, after viewing the evidence in a neutral light and giving appropriate deference to the jury’s credibility determinations, the court concluded that the verdict was not against the weight of the evidence.