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Defense Contends Jury Instructions Were Incorrect

During the armed robbery of a jewelry store in New York City, three men entered the jewelry store and while robbing the store, they hurt and wounded the wife of the owner. A New York Sex Crimes Lawyer said the fourth man was outside, in the van, waiting for his friends. He drove his friends to the jewelry store and drove them away from the premises after they came out of the jewelry store.
The driver was charged with robbery in the first degree and assault in the first degree. During the deliberation of the jury, they asked the trial court to explain if the driver of the car could be found guilty of the robbery if he did not know in advance that his friends were going to commit armed robbery. The trial court told the jury that a person who aids in the escape of those who committed armed robbery is equally guilty of the armed robbery.

The jury then also asked if the driver could also be found guilty of the assault even if he did not know and did not participating in the assault of the proprietor’s wife. A New York Sex Crimes Lawyer said the trial judge said that those who participate in the commission of the armed robbery are equally responsible of all those who committed the crime.

The jury found the driver guilty of armed robbery and assault. He was sentenced to a prison term of five to fifteen years for each of the convictions.

The driver appealed his conviction. He claims that he only drove his friends to the jewelry store and drove them away from there. He did not know beforehand that his friends had planned to rob the store when he drove them there. The aid he gave was not intentional and knowing on his part for him to be found guilty of robbery and assault with the rest of his friends who actually committed the robbery.

He also claims that he was wrongfully convicted of assault when he never participated in the assault. The assault was committed spontaneously and not planned beforehand. He could not have known that his friends were going to wound the owner’s wife. He also claims that by the time that his friends had gotten back to his car and rode in it, the assault was finished.
The only question before the Court is whether or not the driver of the car was wrongfully convicted.

The Court found that the trial judge erred in his instructions to the jury regarding their two questions. The Court held that the issue of whether or not the driver knowingly helped his friends by bringing them to the store and by waiting for them and driving them away to escape with the loot is a question of fact that the jury had to determine for itself. A Queens Sex Crimes Lawyer said the jury should have decided for itself if the robbery was still in progress at the time that he drove his friends away from the jewelry store. Also, the question of whether or not the assault continued even after the robbers had already shot the owner’s wife and had gotten into the driver’s car is also a question of fact that the jury should have established.

The trial judge introduced the element of conspiracy when he charged the jury that those who join the commission of a crime are equally responsible for all the acts of the others who were involved in the crime. A Nassau County Sex Crimes Lawyer said the element of conspiracy was never contained in the indictment and was never proved during the trial. The trial judge erred in this as well.

The Court resolved to reverse the conviction of the driver and to remand the case for new trial.
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