The Court of Appeals, over a concurrence, determined the jury was properly instructed on the “deadly force” justification defense on the assault second count. Defendant was convicted of beating the victim with a belt with a metal buckle, which was deemed a “dangerous instrument.” The defendant argued he was entitled to the “non-deadly” or “ordinary” physical force justification-defense jury instruction:
The Penal Law defines “[d]eadly physical force” as “physical force which, under the circumstances in which it is used, is readily capable of causing death or other serious physical injury” (Penal Law § 10.00 ). A “[d]angerous instrument” is defined as “any instrument, article, or substance . . . which, under the circumstances in which it is used, attempted to be used or threatened to be used, is readily capable of causing death or other serious physical injury” (id. § 10.00 ). Defendant argues that the statutory definitions, while similar, are not identical and that a jury may convict a defendant of a crime containing a dangerous instrument element without necessarily concluding that the defendant used deadly physical force. …
There is no per se rule regarding which justification instructions are appropriate based solely on the fact that the defendant has been charged with second-degree assault with a dangerous instrument. Instead, as in every case where the defendant requests a justification charge, trial courts must view the record in the light most favorable to the defendant and determine whether any reasonable view of the evidence would permit the factfinder to conclude that the defendant’s conduct was justified, and, if so, which instructions are applicable … .
Under the particular circumstances of this case, the jury instruction does not require reversal … . Viewing the record in the light most favorable to defendant, there is no reasonable view of the evidence that defendant merely “attempted” or “threatened” to use the belt in a manner readily capable of causing death or serious physical injury … but that he did not “use” it in that manner … . People v Vega, 2019 NY Slip Op 03530, CtApp 5-7-19