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New York Appellate Court Decides if Trial Court Erred in Aquitting Defendant Based on Repugnancy


T J was convicted of attempted robbery in the second degree and assault in the second degree stemming from an incident that occurred on June 16th, 1983. In that incident, high school student N T stated that a gym bag had been stolen from her locker. She went looking for the bag and found it in the first floor ladies’ room where Ms. J and two other students were in the process of looking through it. T took the bag and was attempting to leave the bathroom when Ms. J began to assault her. Another young woman became involved and grabbed at a gold chain Ms. T had around her neck. The girl was unsuccessful in taking the chain and left the bathroom.

The jury found Ms. J guilty of the second degree attempted robbery involving the physical assault of another person but not guilty of attempted robbery involving the aid of another person. Although the jury found Ms. J guilty of the attempted robbery and assault, the trial court set aside the jury’s verdict. The court argued that the since the jury acquitted Ms. J on the second count of attempted robbery involving the aid of another person, a guilty verdict for the other attempted robbery count could not be sustained. The court further noted that the victim had testified that someone else other than Ms. J had attempted to steal the chain around her neck. The verdict was set aside on grounds of repugnancy, which is when a jury convicts a defendant of one offense but acquits them of another when both have the same underlying circumstances and elements.

The prosecution appealed the trial court’s decision to the New York County Supreme Court. The court was charged with determining whether the trial court acted in error in setting aside the jury’s verdict. The court noted that at trial, the jury was instructed on the elements of both of the attempted second degree robbery counts of the indictment. The judge effectively told the jury that in order to convict on either charge, they would have to find that Ms. J attempted to steal from with the victim with the intention of forcibly taking her property. The trial court further instructed the jury that the two attempted robbery charges were not identical in nature. One charge involved the aid of another person while the other involved the use of physical force against the victim. Had Ms. J simply taken the bag and its contents without having contact with the victim, she may have only been charged with larceny.

The court held that the trial court acted incorrectly in setting aside the jury’s verdict and ordered the indictment and convictions to be reinstated. The court noted that while the two charges had certain overlapping elements in come, they were distinguishable from one another which would have prevented any repugnancy. The fact that Ms. J was acquitted of one charge did not necessarily mean that the evidence did not support a conviction for the other charge. The court did not, however, offer an opinion as to whether it viewed the evidence used to convict Ms. J as sufficient. The court recommended that the matter be remanded for further proceedings and noted that since sentencing had not yet taken place, Ms. J could file a new motion to set aside the verdict based on insufficient evidence rather than repugnancy.

Although the incident itself seemed relatively minor, Ms. J was charged with robbery and assault, which are considered to be felonies under New York law. Fortunately, she had the aid of an experienced New York Criminal Defense Attorney to help her navigate the complexities of the legal process.

If you’ve been charged with robbery or another crime involving theft, Stephen Bilkis and Associates can provide the expert legal representation you need to defend your rights. A conviction for robbery, larceny, burglary or similar crimes can significantly alter your life and make it difficult for you to find a job, finish your education and become a productive member of society. Call 1-800-NY-NY-LAW today to speak with a member of our criminal defense legal team. We also have numerous office locations in the New York area if you’d like to discuss your case in person. Contact Stephen Bilkis and Associates today to get the expert criminal defense help you need to fight a robbery charge.

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