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Appellate Brief

Appellate Brief

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Published by elegantpride

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Published by: elegantpride on Nov 24, 2009
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This case is on appeal from the decision of the SupremeCourt of New York, Appellate Division, Fourth Department, thataffirmed the judgment rendered upon verdict of the Erie CountyCourt, Supreme Court of New York. The jury convicted theDefendant of murder in the second degree for his accessorialrole in a homicide. This Court granted leave to appeal.
In the decision of the Appellate Division, FourthDepartment, the court found that the weight of thecircumstantial evidence presented at trial was sufficient toestablish the Defendant’s guilt as an accessory beyond areasonable doubt. The court concluded that the Defendant sharedthe intent of Albini because they were close friends, theDefendant helped Albini to meet with Stec on the night she waskilled, and the Defendant arranged for the disposal of the body.People v. LaBruna, 66 A.D.2d 300, 382, 414 N.Y.S.2d 380, 303 (4
Dep’t. 1979). Therefore, the court believed that the jury couldreasonably infer from these facts that the Defendant acted withthe requisite mental culpability as an accessory to murderbecause the totality of evidence permitted no other reasonablehypothesis. Id. at 302, 414 N.Y.S.2d at 381.
The totality of the evidence, however, did not persuade thedissenting judge. He viewed the circumstantial evidence asfailing to show that Gino Albini premeditated the murder, andcould not escape the conclusion that Albini may not have formedthe intent to murder until the moment he did so. If Gino Albinidid, in fact, act spontaneously, then “the record does notpermit an inference that the defendant took a purposeful part inthe homicide.” Id. at 307, 414 N.Y.S.2d at 384. Even allowingthat Gino Albini did premeditate the murder, the record failedto show, that the Defendant formed the requisite independentdesign to kill. Id. at 307, 414 N.Y.S.2d at 384.Furthermore, the dissent felt that the intent of theDefendant had been wrongly extrapolated from the acts of GinoAlbini, rather than from the acts of the Defendant himself. Id.at 306, 414 N.Y.S.2d at 384. When the dissent examined the soleconduct of the Defendant, namely his assistance in drawing thevictim from her home, his presence during the murder, and hisdisposal of the body, the judge pointed out that all of theseacts could have been performed without a knowledge of Albini’sintent to kill. Id. at 306, 414 N.Y.S.2d at 384. The crucialinferential link was the conduct of the Defendant at the momentof the murder, and the record here lacked that information: “Noevidence describes the conduct of the defendant prior to orduring the time Albini drew his gun and fired.” Id. at 306-07,414 N.Y.S.2d at 384. Furthermore, the only conduct that the
record could point to for verification of the Defendant’s intentat the time of the shooting was his disposal of the body afterthe shooting. Id. at 306, 414 N.Y.S.2d at 384.Lastly, the dissent rejected the notion that the Defendanthad any desire to murder the victim. One could not glean amotive from the friendship between the Defendant and Albinibecause it was “hardly a circumstance of compelling weight.” Id.at 307, 414 N.Y.S.2d at 385. Additionally, a lack of motiveevidence, “in some circumstances may tend to establish that thedefendant . . . lacked the requisite intent,” Id. at 307; 414N.Y.S.2d at 385 quoting People v. Luciano, 46 N.Y.2d 767, 769,413 N.Y.S.2d 651. Therefore, the dissenting judge called for areversal of the conviction.
In order to determine whether the evidence before the jurywas legally sufficient to support a finding of guilt beyond areasonable doubt, the proper standard of review on appeal, “iswhether the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to thePeople, could lead a rational trier of fact to conclude that theelements of the crime have been proved beyond a reasonabledoubt.” People v. Cabey, 85 N.Y.2d 417, 420, 626 N.Y.S.2d 20,22 (1995).

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