Self defense cases in New York can be particularly challenging and require a skilled and experienced attorney. In New York self defense is referred to the defense of justification. Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a New York assault case discussing the defense of justification. Ultimately, the court reversed the defendant’s conviction for assault in the first degree and ordered a new trial based on the trial court’s failure to instruct the jury appropriately.
The Facts of the Case
According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was arrested and charged with attempted murder and several assault charges after he “slashed his roommate across the neck and stabbed him in the abdomen with a large kitchen knife.” Apparently, the alleged assault occurred in the men’s apartment during a physical altercation.
Evidently, the defendant presented evidence suggesting that he was justified in his actions. It is unclear from the court’s opinion the exact nature of the justification defense, but it was most likely self-defense. At the conclusion of the evidence, the court instructed the jury on each of the charged offenses, as well as the defendant’s justification defense.
Ultimately, the court acquitted the defendant on the attempted murder charge, but found him guilty of assault in the first degree with intent to cause serious injury with a dangerous instrument. The defendant appealed, arguing that the prosecution’s evidence failed to disprove his justification defense beyond a reasonable doubt. The court rejected the defendant’s claim on appeal, reasoning that the evidence presented was legally sufficient to rebut the defendant’ justification defense insofar as it pertained to the assault charge.
The court, however, reversed the defendant’s conviction and ordered a new trial based on a related jury-charge issue. The court explained that, in a self-defense case, if the jury finds the defendant guilty of the lead charge on the basis of justification, the court must instruct the jury not to consider any of the lesser accounts.
Here, the court reviewed the record below, including the jury instruction sheet, and determined that there was no indication what the basis for the jury’s verdict was. The court also noted that the trial court did not instruct the jury not to consider the lesser offenses once the jury returned a not-guilty verdict for attempted murder. Thus, the court reversed the defendant’s convictions for the assault charges and ordered a new trial. Notably, on retrial, the prosecution will not be permitted to include attempted murder among the charges because the defendant had already been found not guilty of that offense.
Have You Been Arrested for a New York Crime?
If you have been arrested and charged with a serious crime in the New York area, contact the dedicated New York criminal defense attorneys at the law firm of Tilem & Associates. At Tilem & Associates, we represent those who have been charged with all serious New York crimes, including assault and homicide cases. We offer a unique form of client-centered representation, focusing on the individual needs of each of our clients and listening to their input. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation, call 877-377-8666 today.