Proof Presented to Grand Jury Was Sufficient to Support Allegation Defendant “Caused” the Death of a Police Officer Killed by Another Driver While Responding to the Accident In Which Defendant Was Involved
The Second Department determined the evidence before the grand jury was sufficient to support the charge that defendant, who had been involved in a vehicle accident and was allegedly under the influence of alcohol, “caused” the death of a police officer who was struck by a car at the accident scene. The court explained the nature of the proof required to support the charge that the defendant “caused” the death of another:
“Courts assessing the sufficiency of the evidence before a grand jury must evaluate whether the evidence, viewed most favorably to the People, if unexplained and uncontradicted—and deferring all questions as to the weight or quality of the evidence—would warrant conviction'” … . ” Legally sufficient evidence' means competent evidence which, if accepted as true, would establish every element of an offense charged and the defendant's commission thereof” (CPL 70.10).
In order to be held criminally liable for a person's death, a defendant must have engaged in conduct that “actually contribute[d]” to that person's death … . The defendant's actions need not be the sole cause of death and, indeed, the defendant need not have committed the fatal act to be liable … . The test is, instead, whether it may be reasonably foreseen that the defendant's actions would result in the victim's death; if so, the defendant's actions may, under the criminal law, constitute a “sufficiently direct cause” of the death to warrant criminal liability for it … .
Here, viewing the evidence before the grand jury in the light most favorable to the prosecution …, we find that there was legally sufficient proof before the grand jury that the defendant's actions “caused” the officer's death. Specifically, it was reasonably foreseeable that the defendant's conduct would cause collisions and that the police would respond and be required to be in the roadway, where they would be exposed to the potentially lethal danger presented by fast-moving traffic … . People v Ryan, 2015 NY Slip Op 00915, 2nd Dept 2-4-15