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Homicide Occurs During Commission of Drug Crime

This case is being heard in the Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Department. The case deals with an appeal being made by Otha Beard. The respondent of the case is the People of the State of New York. The defendant is appealing a verdict from a judgment made by the County Court of Suffolk County that was rendered on the 8th of May, 1979 and convicted him of criminally negligent homicide.

Case Discussion

The defendant’s guilt in this matter was not established beyond a reasonable doubt. At the time of the incident the defendant was driving his vehicle with three passengers inside it. He was going approximately 35 miles an hour. All of the passengers had smoked marijuana (marijuana possession). Quite suddenly, one of the passengers told the defendant to stop the car. The passenger was a fifteen year old girl. At first the defendant ignored her and continued to drive. She continuously repeated her request for the car to be stopped and threatened to jump out of the car if he did not stop.

The defendant did not believe the girl would actually jump and continued driving. The girl opened the car door and jumped from the moving vehicle. The defendant stopped the car about 200 yards down the road from where she jumped out. One of the passengers of the car saw that the girl was moving in the road way and ran towards her. Before the other passenger reached her, the girl was hit by another vehicle coming down the road and fatally injured.

The indictment charged the defendant with manslaughter in the second degree. The indictment alleged that the defendant accelerated the car when the defendant was jumping from it.

The defendant waived his right to a jury trial and instead was tried by a judge from the county court. The trial court found the defendant guilty of the lesser included crime of criminally negligent homicide. The trial court did not find that the defendant had posed a threat to the victim. It was implied that the defendant was under the influence of marijuana at the time, but this was not proven during his trial, but the court took judicial notice of this anyway. The court held that the defendant should have known that the decedent would carry out her threat to jump from the car based on her condition of being high on marijuana. The court also determined that the defendant put the girl in grave risk of death by not stopping the car when she requested and not stopping the car sooner after she had jumped out.

Court Decision

After reviewing the facts of the case, the judgment is reversed and the indictment is dismissed. The feeling of this court is that the prosecution failed to prove without a doubt that the defendant was guilty of any crime. He had no real way of knowing that the decedent would actually jump from the car. The case will be remitted to the County Court of Suffolk County for this order to be entered.

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