Assault-Related Convictions Not Supported by the Weight of the Evidence/Prosecution Held to Erroneous Jury Instruction Which Was Not Challenged
The Second Department determined defendant’s convictions were not supported by the weight of the evidence and the prosecution should be held to an erroneous jury instruction which was not challenged. The defendant was acquitted of possession of a weapon and was not charged with acting in concert with others. Absent any evidence the defendant caused the injury to the victim his assault-related convictions could not stand. The jury was erroneously instructed that burglary requires proof the defendant unlawfully entered “and” (not “or”) remained in the victim’s dwelling. Because the erroneous instruction was not challenged, the People are held to it. The burglary conviction could not stand because the defendant was invited into the dwelling:
The evidence presented by the People was that the defendant alone caused serious physical injury to the victim by slashing him with an unidentified dangerous instrument. The jury was not charged that the defendant was acting-in-concert with the others. While the defendant was convicted of two counts of assault in the first degree and gang assault in the first degree, he was acquitted of criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree. In conducting our weight of the evidence review, we may consider the jury’s acquittal of the defendant on that count … . Given the victim’s testimony that, during the struggle, he heard the defendant say “no, don’t stab him, don’t stab him,” and that he did not see who slashed him, and considering that testimony along with the jury’s acquittal of the defendant of criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree, we find that the evidence, when properly weighed, did not establish that the defendant caused serious physical injury to the victim or that he did so by means of a dangerous instrument.
While a person is guilty of burglary in the first degree when he or she either knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in a dwelling with intent to commit a crime therein (see Penal Law § 140.30), here, the trial court, without objection, erroneously instructed the jury that, in order to find the defendant guilty of the two counts of this charge, the People were required to prove that the defendant “unlawfully entered and remained” in the victim’s dwelling (emphasis added). Since the People did not object to this erroneous charge, they were “bound to satisfy the heavier burden” … . Given that the evidence demonstrated that the defendant knocked on the victim’s door and announced his presence, and that the victim voluntarily invited the defendant into the apartment, the People failed to satisfy their burden as to these two counts. People v Samuels, 2015 NY Slip Op 05968, 2nd Dept 7-8-15