New York Court Uses Defendant’s Actions to Infer Intent to Kill in Violent Crimes Case

In a recent case before the Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Third Department, the defendant appealed his convictions of attempted murder, attempted assault, robbery, burglary, and criminal possession of a weapon. Part of the defendant’s argument regarding the “attempted murder” offense was that the facts of the case did not support the jury’s finding of guilt, and the verdict should therefore be reversed. Reviewing the record, the higher court disagreed and ultimately affirmed the lower court’s verdict, emphasizing that the defendant’s actions throughout his physical altercation with the victim led to a reasonable inference that he intended to kill the victim.

Defendant’s Argument

The defendant’s argument centered around the fact that during the incident in question, he and the victim both fought in the hallway of a motel while one of them was holding a gun. Shots were fired, and the victim was shot during the parties’ struggle for the gun. There was not enough evidence, maintained the defendant, to prove that he attempted to kill the victim – the evidence only showed that the victim’s injuries were the result of a chaotic fight that involved a loaded gun. Without reason to assume that he intended to kill the victim, there was no basis for the “attempted murder” conviction. The defendant therefore asked the higher court to reverse the lower court’s ruling.

Basis for Appellate Court’s Ruling

The appellate court disagreed. According to important New York case law, it is possible to infer intent to kill from the defendant’s actions. Here, the victim testified that the defendant shot directly at him while they were fighting, as well as that the defendant placed the gun directly on his body before shooting. Other witnesses affirmed this testimony. These actions directly supported the inference that the defendant intended to kill the victim.
Additionally, the victim’s injuries showed a gunshot wound, lacerations above the eyebrow, and abrasions to other parts of the body. These injuries were consistent with the victim’s testimony about where and how the defendant shot him. Given that the physical evidence, in addition to the testimony, supported the inference that the defendant wanted to kill the victim, it was reasonable for the jury to have found the defendant guilty.
Ultimately, then, the court affirmed the lower court’s ruling, and the defendant’s convictions stayed in place.

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