People v. East

Decision Date08 June 2001
Citation728 N.Y.S.2d 608
CourtNew York Supreme Court — Appellate Division

John E. Tyo, for defendant-appellant.

Melvin Bressler, for plaintiff-respondent.



On appeal from a judgment convicting him of murder in the second degree (Penal Law 125.25 [2]) and gang assault in the first degree (Penal Law 120.07), defendant contends that his conviction is not supported by legally sufficient evidence. We disagree. "[C]ourts must review the sufficiency of the evidence in light of the law on which the jury was instructed" (People v Lynch, 95 N.Y.2d 243, 248; see, People v Sala, 95 N.Y.2d 254, 260) and must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the People (see, People v Contes, 60 N.Y.2d 620, 621). Here, the jury was instructed that "[a] defendant charged with homicide or murder, manslaughter, [sic] cannot escape liability merely because the wound inflicted did not cause immediate death. It is sufficient if the wound inflicted was the legal cause of death, that is if it started a chain of causation which was the competent producing cause of death. If death was not caused by the defendant's infliction of trauma, but by an independent supervening cause, the defendant's conduct would not be the competent producing cause of death". The evidence at trial establishes that the cause of death was an aneurysm related to the beating of the victim by defendant and others. Defendant's own expert testified that the death of the victim was caused by "interrelated cause and effect abnormalities beginning with traumatic injury to his brain". Thus, there is a "valid line of reasoning and permissible inferences which could lead a rational person to the conclusion reached by the jury on the basis of the evidence at trial" with respect to causation (People v Bleakley, 69 N.Y.2d 490, 495). Further, a single vicious beating under the circumstances of this case is legally sufficient to establish that defendant's conduct evinced a depraved indifference to human life (see, People v La Mountain, 155 A.D.2d 717, 719-720, lv denied 75 N.Y.2d 814; see also, People v Jones, 211 A.D.2d 645, 645-646, lv denied 85 N.Y.2d 863).

The evidence is also legally sufficient to establish that defendant was "aided by two or more persons actually present" to support the conviction for gang assault in the first degree (Penal Law 120.07). Viewed in the light most favorable to the People (see, People v Contes, supra, at 621), the evidence establishes that at least four persons in the group assaulted the victim and that, as charged to the jury, even more were "in a position to render immediate assistance to a person participating in the assault". The evidence is also legally sufficient to establish that defendant "shared a 'community of purpose' with his companion[s]" when they each kicked the victim in the head (People v Allah, 71 N.Y.2d 830, 832; see, People v Whatley, 69 N.Y.2d 784; Penal Law 20.00). We further conclude that the verdict is not against the weight of the evidence (see, People v Bleakley, supra, at 495).

We reject defendant's further contention that County Court committed reversible error by its evidentiary rulings. The court did not err in refusing to admit the victim's medical records until such time as an expert witness testified that he relied on those records. The court also did not err in redacting portions of the medical records where the source of the information was unknown (see, People v Townsley, 240 A.D.2d 955, 957, lv denied 90 N.Y.2d 943, 1014, 1015; cf., People v Thomas, 282 A.D.2d 827, 725 N.Y.S.2d 102). Because defendant was known to the lay witnesses, the court properly denied defendant's motion to strike their identifications of defendant (see, People v Russell, 165 A.D.2d 327, 332, affd 79 N.Y.2d 1024). The court did not abuse its discretion in...

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