New York Court of Appeal Upholds Coercion Conviction, Dismisses Appeal Based on Improper Jury Instruction

Understanding the roles that the court and the jury play in a criminal proceeding can be difficult. As seasoned New York criminal defense attorneys, we believe it is critical that our clients know the rules of law that may affect their trial. The following appellate opinion explains why it is critical to understand these rules and to have an attorney who is prepared to help you fight for the fair and impartial trial that you deserve.

In the case, the defendant was charged with two counts of coercion in the first degree for making physical threats against his former girlfriend and for threatening to ruin her business operation. The girlfriend had asked the defendant to move out of her apartment, and the defendant allegedly engaged in the threats to stay as a resident. The girlfriend reported the defendant’s threatening behavior to his parole officer, who arranged for the defendant’s arrest and incarceration. The defendant allegedly continued to engage in threatening behavior against the girlfriend from jail.

During trial, the defendant asked the court to instruct the jury regarding coercion in the second degree as a lesser-included offense of coercion in the first degree, arguing that the evidence could be construed as lacking indications that he engaged in the heinous conduct that usually characterizes the greater offense of coercion in the first degree. The lower court denied the request, finding that the charge of the lesser-included offense was not applicable, based on the record. The jury convicted the defendant of both counts of coercion in the first degree. The defendant appealed, and the Appellate Division concluded that the lower court did not err in failing to include the lesser coercion charge.

On review before the Court of Appeal, the defendant argued that the court impermissibly made a factual conclusion regarding the seriousness of his alleged threats in concluding that the jury should not be instructed on the lesser-included offense. The appellate court rejected this argument, finding that the defendant failed to make an appropriate objection stating his grounds for challenging the court’s conduct on the record, thereby waiving his right to an appeal. The court also rejected the defendant’s argument that the lesser-included offense should have been provided to the jury, based on the alleged seriousness or lack thereof of his conduct. The court referred to the legislative history behind New York’s coercion laws, which call for coercion in the first degree to be charged whenever the methods of coercion involve threats to cause injuries to a person or damage to property. Accordingly, the Court of Appeal upheld the conviction and the lower court’s rulings.

At Tilem & Associates, we understand how stressful it can be to face criminal charges or to be involved in a criminal investigation. If this is your first time involved in the criminal legal process, it is nearly impossible to understand the numerous rules and procedures that affect your case or your role in the investigation. Our seasoned assault defense attorneys are standing by to assist you with protecting your rights and seeking the outcome that you deserve. To schedule your free consultation, call us at 1-877-377-8666 or contact us online to get started.

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