The Second Department, reversing defendant’s murder conviction and ordering a new trial, determined the trial judge should have given the jury the accomplice-in-fact instruction concerning the need for corroboration of the testimony of an accomplice:
“A defendant may not be convicted of any offense upon the testimony of an accomplice unsupported by corroborative evidence tending to connect the defendant with the commission of such offense” (CPL 60.22). A witness in a criminal action is an accomplice if he or she “may reasonably be considered to have participated in . . . the offense charged or an offense based upon the same or some of the same facts or conduct which constitute the offense charged”… . A witness who is a criminal facilitator is an accomplice for corroboration purposes … . The factual issue of whether a particular witness is an accomplice should be submitted to the jury if different inferences may reasonably be drawn from the proof regarding complicity … .
Here, different inferences may reasonably be drawn … as to whether the second eyewitness drove Gill and the shooter to the scene, with the knowledge that one or the other of them intended to use the gun. Under these circumstances, the Supreme Court erred in failing to provide the jury with an accomplice-in-fact charge. The error was not harmless, because the evidence of the defendant’s guilt was not overwhelming. It is possible that the jury, properly charged on whether to treat the second eyewitness as an accomplice, and, if so, how to consider his testimony, could have discounted his version of the events. In that case, it was for the jury to decide whether the remaining evidence established the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt … . People v Riley, 2017 NY Slip Op 05755, 2nd Dept 7-19-17
CRIMINAL LAW (FAILURE TO INSTRUCT THE JURY ON THE NEED FOR CORROBORATION OF THE TESTIMONY OF AN ACCOMPLICE REQUIRED A NEW TRIAL)/EVIDENCE (CRIMINAL LAW, ACCOMPLICE TESTIMONY, FAILURE TO INSTRUCT THE JURY ON THE NEED FOR CORROBORATION OF THE TESTIMONY OF AN ACCOMPLICE REQUIRED A NEW TRIAL)/JURY INSTRUCTIONS (CRIMINAL LAW, ACCOMPLICE TESTIMONY, FAILURE TO INSTRUCT THE JURY ON THE NEED FOR CORROBORATION OF THE TESTIMONY OF AN ACCOMPLICE REQUIRED A NEW TRIAL)