It bears noting that the person had previously told the police who approached him at the scene that he had not viewed the shooting, but that he had stayed in the bedroom during the entire incident because he was frightened. He also admitted on cross-examination that he loved defendant like a brother that he did not want to see him convicted and that he would lie for defendant if he had to. The credibility of such a witness is, at best, suspect.
A Queens Criminal Felony Lawyer said that, defendant’s application for a trial order of dismissal on the ground that the People had failed to prove that defendant, in shooting the deceased, had intended to cause his death or that he had not acted in self-defense was denied. After requesting additional instructions on manslaughter in the first degree the jurors returned a verdict finding defendant guilty of that crime. On appeal, defendant contends, inter alia, that the integrity of the Grand Jury’s deliberations was impaired by the presentation of an autopsy report containing factual errors, the use of an alias for defendant in the title of the matter, and the failure of the District Attorney to instruct the Grand Jury as to the essential elements of the defense of justification and the People’s burden to disprove the defense beyond a reasonable doubt.
The issue in this case is whether the Grand Jury’s deliberations were impaired and has resulted to disproved the criminal defendant’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
The court finds that all these contentions lack merit. The court has inspected the Grand Jury minutes which resulted in defendant’s indictment, as well as the impaneling instruction minutes. The disputed autopsy report was not introduced into evidence, and the use of the name “Buddha” by witnesses indicated that it was a nickname rather than an alias with criminal connotations. Accordingly, defendant was not prejudiced. Further, the District Attorney advised the Grand Jury of the relevant sections of Penal Law article 35 on the defense of justification. Accordingly, the District Attorney’s duty as legal advisor to the Grand Jury was fulfilled.
While neither the impaneling court nor the District Attorney advised the Grand Jurors that it was the District Attorney’s burden to disprove the defense of justification beyond a reasonable doubt, the absence of such an instruction does not constitute error. The District Attorney bears no such burden in Grand Jury proceedings. Such burden arises only at trial. “The Grand Jury is not charged with the ultimate responsibility of determining the guilt or innocence of the accused. That duty resides with the petit jury, which has the obligation of assessing the evidence in light of the applicable legal rules and determining whether the People have proven the guilt of the accused beyond a reasonable doubt”. The primary function of the Grand Jury “is to investigate crimes and determine whether sufficient evidence exists to accuse a citizen of a crime and subject him or her to criminal prosecution”. A Grand Jury may indict when the evidence before it is “legally sufficient” to establish that the accused committed the offense, and there is competent and admissible evidence before it which provides reasonable cause to believe that the accused committed the offense. “At the accusatory stage, legally sufficient evidence is prima facie evidence, not proof beyond a reasonable doubt”. The Grand Jury was adequately instructed by the impaneling court on the correct standard for criminal indictment.
Accordingly, the Grand Jury proceeding conformed to the requirements of CPL article 190 and the integrity thereof was not impaired. Dismissal of the indictment is not required.
To Be Cont…