The Fourth Department, reversing defendant’s conviction and dismissing the indictment, over a two-justice dissent, determined the defendant’s murder conviction was against the weight of the evidence. The majority stated that the evidence demonstrated the defendant was probably guilty, but did not rise to proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The dissenters stated they “agreed” with the majority’s “implicit” determination that there was sufficient evidence to support the verdict, but they disagreed with the majority’s conclusion that the conviction was against the weight of the evidence. The decision describes the evidence in great detail which cannot be fairly summarized here. In a nutshell, there was evidence the defendant went into a motel room with the victim, where the victim was found dead. But the majority noted there was other evidence to suggest the victim had left the motel room at some point and someone other than the defendant was also in the room:
The People’s case thus rested on three pillars of circumstantial evidence: (1) the fact that defendant entered the hotel with the victim at approximately 7:00 p.m., some 15 hours before his dead body was found in the hotel room; (2) the fact that defendant repeatedly lied to the police when he said that he did not know the victim and had never met him; and (3) the fact that the victim’s vehicle was found abandoned on a city street approximately six-tenths of a mile from defendant’s residence.
… [D]efendant’s presence in the room, although incriminating, is by no means conclusive considering that other people may have been in the room with the victim and that the Medical Examiner could not determine the time of death. As for defendant’s lies to the police, it appears that he may not have been living as an openly gay man—he had a girlfriend and children from different women— and he may have said that he did not know the victim so as not to reveal his sexual orientation. Finally, although the presence of the vehicle so close to defendant’s residence is suspicious, the victim was known to drive around the city looking for sexual partners … . * * *
Although the police cannot be faulted for arresting defendant, nor the People for prosecuting him, the evidence at trial simply failed to prove defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. There are too many unanswered questions for us to be comfortable that the right person is serving a life sentence for the victim’s murder.
From the dissent: We agree with the implicit determination of our colleagues that there is sufficient evidence to support the jury’s verdict of murder in the second degree … , but we respectfully disagree with their conclusion that the verdict is against the weight of the evidence. People v Carter, 2018 NY Slip Op 00711, Fourth Dept 2-2-18
CRIMINAL LAW (MURDER CONVICTION REVERSED AS AGAINST THE WEIGHT OF THE EVIDENCE (FOURTH DEPT))/EVIDENCE (CRIMINAL LAW, (MURDER CONVICTION REVERSED AS AGAINST THE WEIGHT OF THE EVIDENCE/AGAINST THE WEIGHT OF THE EVIDENCE (CRIMINAL LAW, MURDER CONVICTION REVERSED AS AGAINST THE WEIGHT OF THE EVIDENCE (FOURTH DEPT))