Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a New York assault case requiring the court discuss an issue that is important to understand for all who are facing New York criminal charges. The case presented the court with determining whether the defendant’s conviction was supported by the weight of the evidence presented at trial. Ultimately, the court concluded that the evidence did support the jury’s verdict, and affirmed the defendant’s convictions.
The Facts of the Case
The defendant was arrested and charged with two counts of assault in the second degree and one count of tampering with evidence. The case proceeded to trial in front of a jury, where it was established that the defendant got into a fight with two other men. During the fight, the defendant produced a knife because he wanted to scare the other men. He specifically stated that he did not intend to injure them.
The defendant also testified that during the fight, he swung the knife at the two men when they were very close to him. He could not remember if he used a slashing or stabbing motion, and a medical witness testified that the victims had injuries that were consistent with either slashing or stabbing.
The defendant was convicted of two counts of second-degree assault, which requires proof that the defendant “recklessly” caused injuries to another with a dangerous instrument. The defendant appealed his conviction, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to show that he was reckless in his actions.
The defendant’s argument was a technical one, in that he claimed that the evidence presented by the prosecution suggested he acted with intent, which is not the same as recklessness. Thus, the defendant argued that the prosecution proved he acted intentionally (meaning the jury could have convicted him of a more serious sub-section of the assault statute), but failed to prove the elements of the crime for which he was convicted.
The court considered the evidence and determined that while the evidence did tend to prove the defendant acted intentionally, the evidence also showed he was reckless. The court explained that the standard for recklessness is “conscious disregard of a substantial and unjustifiable risk.” Here, the court held, the defendant’s act of waving a knife at the two men when they were in close physical proximity to him was indeed reckless. Thus, the court affirmed the defendant’s convictions.
This presents an important point worth discussing in that the criminal law requires the prosecution to prove exactly what it is they charged the defendant with. Commonly defendants are in the position of arguing that their conduct did not rise to the level of intentional; however, if a crime charges reckless conduct then a defendant could, in theory, beat the case by showing that their conduct was intentional but not reckless. Here, however, that argument did not work for the defendant, because his conduct was determined to be both reckless and intentional. Sometimes, but not always, when a defendant intends to make a technical argument such as this argument, it it better to wave a jury who may understand the defense better than a jury.
Have You Been Charged with a Violent Crime in New York?
If you have recently been charged with a New York assault crime, or any other violent crime, you should reach out to the dedicated New York criminal defense attorneys at the law firm of Tilem & Associates. At Tilem & Associates, we have decades of experience representing those who are facing serious New York crimes. We handle all types of New York criminal defense cases, including gun possession, assault crimes, drug crimes, and DUI/DWIs. To learn more, call 877-377-8666 to schedule a free consultation today.