People v. Harris, 110194

CourtNew York Supreme Court Appellate Division
Writing for the CourtClark, J.
Citation127 N.Y.S.3d 655,186 A.D.3d 907
Parties The PEOPLE of the State of New York, Respondent, v. Coreen HARRIS, Appellant.
Docket Number110194
Decision Date06 August 2020

186 A.D.3d 907
127 N.Y.S.3d 655

The PEOPLE of the State of New York, Respondent,
v.
Coreen HARRIS, Appellant.

110194

Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Third Department, New York.

Calendar Date: June 10, 2020
Decided and Entered: August 6, 2020


127 N.Y.S.3d 656

Theresa M. Suozzi, Saratoga Springs, for appellant.

P. David Soares, District Attorney, Albany (Jonathan P. Catania of counsel), for respondent.

Before: Garry, P.J., Clark, Mulvey, Aarons and Colangelo, JJ.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Clark, J.

186 A.D.3d 907

Appeal from a judgment of the Supreme Court (Breslin, J.), rendered June 13, 2017 in Albany County, upon a verdict convicting defendant of the crimes of assault in the first degree, assault in the second degree and criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree.

186 A.D.3d 908

In 2016, based upon allegations that he attacked the victim with a filet knife, causing wounds to the victim's nose, cheek and chest, defendant was charged with assault in the first degree, attempted assault in the first degree, assault in the second degree and criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree. Following a jury trial,1 defendant was convicted of assault in the first degree, assault in the second degree and criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree. Defendant was thereafter sentenced, as a second felony offender, to a prison term of 15 years, followed by five years of postrelease supervision, on his conviction for assault in the first degree and to lesser concurrent prison terms

127 N.Y.S.3d 657

on his remaining convictions. Defendant appeals.

Defendant argues that the jury verdict is not supported by legally sufficient evidence and is against the weight of the evidence. However, defendant's legal sufficiency challenge is not preserved for our review, as defendant did not raise the arguments upon which he now relies when he moved for a trial order of dismissal (see People v. Daniels, 174 A.D.3d 955, 956, 104 N.Y.S.3d 392 [2019], lvs dismissed 34 N.Y.3d 950, 952, 110 N.Y.S.3d 642, 660, 134 N.E.3d 641, 659 [2019]; People v. Vanderhorst, 117 A.D.3d 1197, 1198, 984 N.Y.S.2d 688 [2014], lv denied 24 N.Y.3d 1089, 1 N.Y.S.3d 16, 25 N.E.3d 353 [2014] ). Nevertheless, during the course of this Court's weight of the evidence review, we necessarily determine whether each element of the crimes were proven beyond a reasonable doubt and, because defendant raised a justification defense at trial, whether the People proved that defendant's conduct was not justified (see People v. Hernandez, 165 A.D.3d 1473, 1473, 86 N.Y.S.3d 784 [2018] ; People v. Vanderhorst, 117 A.D.3d at 1198, 984 N.Y.S.2d 688 ).

As relevant here, to obtain a conviction for assault in the first degree, the People bear the burden of proving that, "[w]ith intent to cause serious physical injury to another person, [the defendant] cause[d] such injury to such person ... by means of a deadly weapon or a dangerous instrument" ( Penal Law § 120.10[1] ). For a conviction of assault in the second degree, the People must prove that, "[w]ith intent to cause physical injury to another person, [the defendant] cause[d] such injury to such person ... by means of a deadly weapon or a dangerous instrument" ( Penal Law § 120.05[2] ). For a conviction of criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree, the People have to prove that the defendant was previously convicted of a crime and that he or she has committed the offense of criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree (see Penal Law § 265.02[1] ), which requires, as relevant here, proof that the defendant knowingly "possesse[d] any dagger, dangerous knife,

186 A.D.3d 909

dirk, ... razor ... or any other dangerous or deadly instrument or weapon with intent to use the same unlawfully against another" ( Penal Law § 265.01[2] ). A dangerous instrument includes "any instrument ... which, under the circumstances in which it is used, ... is readily capable of causing death or other serious physical injury" ( Penal Law § 10.00[13] ).

The evidence, including defendant's own testimony, indisputably established that defendant slashed the victim in the face, causing lacerations across the victim's nose and right cheek, and stabbed the victim in the chest with a kitchen filet knife. At trial, defendant asserted that he acted in self-defense and that, therefore, his use of the knife was justified. Given defendant's invocation of the justification defense, the People bore the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant was not justified in using deadly physical force against the victim (see People v. Umali, 10 N.Y.3d 417, 425, 859 N.Y.S.2d 104, 888 N.E.2d 1046 [2008], cert denied 556 U.S. 1110, 129 S.Ct. 1595, 173 L.Ed.2d 685 [2009] ; People v. Every, 146 A.D.3d 1157, 1161, 46 N.Y.S.3d 695 [2017], affd 29 N.Y.3d 1103, 61 N.Y.S.3d 194, 83 N.E.3d 202 [2017] ). A defendant is justified in using deadly physical force when he or she is not the initial aggressor and he or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to defend himself or herself from what he or she reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of deadly physical force (see Penal Law § 35.15[1], [2] ; People v. Every, 146 A.D.3d at 1161, 46 N.Y.S.3d 695 ; People v. Fisher, 89 A.D.3d 1135, 1137, 932 N.Y.S.2d 218 [2011], lv

127 N.Y.S.3d 658

denied 18 N.Y.3d 883, 939 N.Y.S.2d 752, 963 N.E.2d 129 [2012] ).

The evidence established that defendant and the victim were the only two people present during the altercation that led to the victim's injuries. The victim testified that, in January 2016, he and his girlfriend went to dinner at the home of defendant and defendant's girlfriend – who was the mother of the victim's girlfriend. The victim stated that both women left to buy cigarettes and that, thereafter, without provocation, defendant attacked him with a filet knife, slashing him in the face and stabbing him in the chest. The victim testified that he grabbed a chair and placed it between himself and defendant, but that defendant nonetheless continued to advance toward him, threatening to kill him. According to the victim, the women arrived home in the middle of the attack, at which point defendant slipped out of the house. The victim and the victim's girlfriend testified that they left the house and sought police intervention and medical assistance. Photographs taken of the scene, as well as police testimony regarding the state of the home shortly after the incident, were consistent with the victim's version of events.

186 A.D.3d 910

As evidence of defendant's motive and intent, the victim and the victim's girlfriend testified to an incident that had taken place over Easter in 2015, which had led to months of estrangement from defendant and defendant's girlfriend. Specifically, they testified that the victim had gotten into a physical altercation with his girlfriend's sister, which prompted an angry and threatening visit from defendant and defendant's girlfriend.2 The People introduced evidence that defendant fled the area after the incident and was ultimately apprehended, with a broken ankle, in Queens County by a United States Marshal.

Defendant testified on his own behalf and offered a different version of events than the victim, stating that it was the victim who had initiated the altercation and had first attacked him with a knife. Defendant asserted that he broke his ankle during a physical struggle with the victim, that he grabbed the filet knife off the kitchen counter and, acting in self-defense, cut and stabbed the victim. However, the photographs depicting the aftermath of the scene, as well as the police testimony describing the state of the home after the incident, were inconsistent with a struggle having taken place as described by defendant. Defendant's testimony was further undercut by a recorded jail phone call, which was admitted into evidence and arguably indicated that defendant had actually broken his ankle sometime after he fled to Queens County.

Inasmuch as defendant's convictions hinged on the jury's credibility determinations, a different verdict would not have been unreasonable (see People v. Dale, 115 A.D.3d 1002, 1006, 981 N.Y.S.2d 821 [2014] ). However, the jury clearly resolved the credibility issues against defendant and in favor of the People. Viewing the evidence in a neutral light and according deference to the jury's credibility determinations (see People v. Pine, 126 A.D.3d 1112, 1114, 4 N.Y.S.3d 746 [2015],

127 N.Y.S.3d 659
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9 practice notes
  • People v. Smith, 109807
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court Appellate Division
    • April 29, 2021
    ...thereon (see Penal Law § 120.00[2] ; People v. Trombley, 97 A.D.3d 903, 903–904, 947 N.Y.S.2d 686 [2012] ; cf. People v. Harris, 186 A.D.3d 907, 912, 127 N.Y.S.3d 655 [2020] ). Defendant next asserts that County Court (Eidens, J.H.O.) erred in denying his motion to suppress his statements m......
  • People v. Gertz, 111618
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court Appellate Division
    • April 14, 2022
    ...quotation marks and citations omitted], lv denied 36 N.Y.3d 1094, 144 N.Y.S.3d 110, 167 N.E.3d 1245 [2021] ; see People v. Harris, 186 A.D.3d 907, 908, 127 N.Y.S.3d 655 [2020], lv denied 36 N.Y.3d 1120, 146 N.Y.S.3d 219, 169 N.E.3d 577 [2021] ). "In conducting a weight of the evidence revie......
  • People v. Vandenburg, 110015
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court Appellate Division
    • December 10, 2020
    ...knife, ... dangerous or deadly instrument or weapon with intent to use the same unlawfully against another’ " ( People v. Harris, 186 A.D.3d 907, 908–909, 127 N.Y.S.3d 655 [2020], quoting Penal Law § 265.01[2] ).136 N.Y.S.3d 553 The victim's wife testified that, at approximately 10:00 p.m. ......
  • People v. Infinger, 110446
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court Appellate Division
    • May 13, 2021
    ...of defendant's justification defense was also not against the weight of the evidence (see Penal Law § 35.15[1][b] ; People v. Harris, 186 A.D.3d 907, 910, 127 N.Y.S.3d 655 [2020] ; People v. Harden, 134 A.D.3d 1160, 1164, 21 N.Y.S.3d 730 [2015], lv denied 27 N.Y.3d 1133, 39 N.Y.S.3d 114, 61......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
9 cases
  • People v. Smith, 109807
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court Appellate Division
    • April 29, 2021
    ...thereon (see Penal Law § 120.00[2] ; People v. Trombley, 97 A.D.3d 903, 903–904, 947 N.Y.S.2d 686 [2012] ; cf. People v. Harris, 186 A.D.3d 907, 912, 127 N.Y.S.3d 655 [2020] ). Defendant next asserts that County Court (Eidens, J.H.O.) erred in denying his motion to suppress his statements m......
  • People v. Gertz, 111618
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court Appellate Division
    • April 14, 2022
    ...quotation marks and citations omitted], lv denied 36 N.Y.3d 1094, 144 N.Y.S.3d 110, 167 N.E.3d 1245 [2021] ; see People v. Harris, 186 A.D.3d 907, 908, 127 N.Y.S.3d 655 [2020], lv denied 36 N.Y.3d 1120, 146 N.Y.S.3d 219, 169 N.E.3d 577 [2021] ). "In conducting a weight of the evidence revie......
  • People v. Vandenburg, 110015
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court Appellate Division
    • December 10, 2020
    ...knife, ... dangerous or deadly instrument or weapon with intent to use the same unlawfully against another’ " ( People v. Harris, 186 A.D.3d 907, 908–909, 127 N.Y.S.3d 655 [2020], quoting Penal Law § 265.01[2] ).136 N.Y.S.3d 553 The victim's wife testified that, at approximately 10:00 p.m. ......
  • People v. Infinger, 110446
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court Appellate Division
    • May 13, 2021
    ...of defendant's justification defense was also not against the weight of the evidence (see Penal Law § 35.15[1][b] ; People v. Harris, 186 A.D.3d 907, 910, 127 N.Y.S.3d 655 [2020] ; People v. Harden, 134 A.D.3d 1160, 1164, 21 N.Y.S.3d 730 [2015], lv denied 27 N.Y.3d 1133, 39 N.Y.S.3d 114, 61......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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