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People v. Robinson

People v. Robinson
Court Discusses Inconsistent Verdict

The defendant was arrested and charged after he was alleged to have sold an undercover narcotics officer a glassine envelop which contained heroin on two separate occasions. The defendant was charged with two counts sale, two counts of possession with intent to sell and in the alternative two counts of simple possession for both days it was alleged that he sold the office heroin. The defendant was convicted by a jury on two counts of possession of a controlled substance and simple possession. The two counts of sale were dismissed after the defendant presented a witness who testified that the defendant was at his home in the Bronx when the sales were alleged to have occurred. The defendant’s New York City Criminal Attorney objected and requested that the jury return to deliberation to arrive at a proper verdict. The trial judge dismissed the two counts of simple possession on its own motion on the ground that the greater charge of possession with intent to sell included the charge of simple possession. The defendant was sentenced to a concurrent indeterminate term from one year to life imprisonment on each count. The criminal defendant appealed the decision on the ground that the verdict was inconsistent.

A majority decision by the Appellate Court of the Supreme Court held that the verdict was appropriate and the judge was correct to dismiss both counts of simple possession. Even though jury had been charged in the alternative for possession of controlled substance with intent to sell or simple possession, when jury returned verdict of guilty on both the criminal possession with intent to sell and the simple possession counts, trial court properly dismissed on its own motion the counts with respect to simple possession. The count of simple possession was included in the count of possession with intent to sell as the two were inextricably linked. The jury had to find the defendant guilty of simple possession in order to have a consistent verdict on the two counts of possession with the intent to sell. Therefore, the defendant’s appeal was denied.

The minority in the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court was of the opinion that the verdict was legally defective. The case of People v. Salemmo, 38 N.Y.2d 357 was used as authority to show that where the verdict does not follow the court’s instructions, then it would be legally defective. The minority stated that the trial judge did not have the power to dismiss the lesser count where the jury returned a defective verdict as the judge should have resubmitted the matter to the jury. Therefore, the defendant’s New York City Criminal Lawyer was correct in requesting that the matter be put back to the jury because it was defective. The jury had obvious difficulties in reaching a verdict as the members had stated earlier that they were hopelessly deadlocked. As such, the minority ordered that the decision should be reversed and a new trial should be ordered. The majority however, stated that the authority of Salemmo was not applicable as the case was decided on different gounds.

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