After the criminal defendant was removed from his vehicle, the police began conducting an inventory search of the vehicle. The discovery of several 9-millimeter rounds in the trunk, however, transformed the search from inventory to investigatory, during which the police recovered a 9-millimeter semiautomatic pistol, what was later determined to be .395 grams of cocaine beneath the front passenger seat, and 41 rounds of 9-millimeter bullets contained in a partially loaded magazine and a box in the trunk. The gun recovered from the defendant’s vehicle matched the shell casings found in the parking lot near the nightclub.
The criminal defendant’s contention that the evidence was legally insufficient to support his conviction of murder in the second degree and criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree is unpreserved for appellate review. In any event, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, we find that it was legally sufficient to establish the defendant’s guilt of those crimes beyond a reasonable doubt. A person is guilty of depraved indifference murder when, under circumstances evincing a depraved indifference to human life, he [or she] recklessly engages in conduct which creates a grave risk of death to another person, and thereby causes the death of another person.
The court disagree with the dissenting colleague’s view that there was no evidence that the defendant deliberately and purposefully proceeded the wrong way down the parkway, in recognition of the grave risk to human life, and with utter disregard for the consequences. Rather, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, as the court must, the testimony of the witnesses who observed the defendant speeding directly at them on the parkway, causing those witnesses to swerve in order to avoid a collision, demonstrates that the defendant’s mental state was one of depraved indifference to human life.
The defendant asserts that his blood alcohol content and intoxication rendered him unable to form the mental state of depraved indifference to human life. To the contrary, the evidence demonstrated that the defendant helped the individual leave the nightclub. In addition, the girlfriend’s friend testified that when the defendant left the nightclub, the defendant looked okay to him, didn’t look like intoxicated and that the defendant seemed like he could handle himself. The evidence did not establish that the defendant was too intoxicated to form the culpable mental state necessary to prove depraved indifference. Thus, the record supports a view of the evidence that the defendant was coherent and able to form the requisite mens prior to leaving the parking lot.
At around midnight, the defendant man went to a nightclub in Hempstead with his girlfriend, a friend of his girlfriend and another individual. After drinking alcohol at the nightclub, the defendant and the individual left and went to a nearby parking lot. The friend of the girlfriend testified that the defendant did not appear intoxicated at that time. According to the friend of the girlfriend, the defendant stated in the parking lot that he lost his shit, presumably referring to drugs, and the defendant became upset. The criminal defendant went into the trunk of his car and searched for something. The defendant then began arguing with his girlfriend. At approximately 3:15 A.M., several witnesses heard gunshots, but no one reported having seen the defendant fire a gun. The defendant then angrily ordered the friend of his girlfriend to leave with his girlfriend, which she did, driving the defendant’s girlfriend home. The defendant and the individual then entered the defendant’s vehicle, with the criminal defendant driving. When police officers arrived at the parking lot only minutes later, at about 3:20 A.M., the defendant had left, and the officers recovered several 9-millimeter shell casings in the parking lot.
Thereafter, at approximately 3:30 A.M., the defendant’s vehicle was seen traveling west in the eastbound lanes of the Southern State Parkway at a speed of 70 to 75 miles per hour.
According to numerous witnesses, the defendant’s vehicle traveled in the wrong direction from about exit 19 to exit 13, a distance of approximately five miles. A witness observed the defendant driving directly at him while changing lanes. That witness had to immediately pull his vehicle onto the shoulder to avoid a collision. This witness saw that the defendant continued driving the wrong way, and the witness observed the other vehicles on the parkway split apart in order to get away from the defendant. The witness testified that the defendant was steadily going, not braking, nothing. He was just going. He was speeding. Meanwhile, another witness, a Police Sergeant was also driving in the proper direction in the left eastbound lane of the parkway. As the Police Sergeant passed exit 14, he observed the defendant’s vehicle driving towards him at a very, very high rate of speed, which caused him to violently turn his steering wheel to the right to avoid a collision. The defendant’s car came within inches of the Police Sergeant’s vehicle. According to him, the defendant made absolutely no effort to get out of the way. DWAI and DWI are in play here.
Near exit 13, the defendant’s vehicle, without ever having slowed down, collided with the victim’s vehicle, killing the victim instantly and incinerating the victim’s vehicle. When emergency services and police arrived on the scene and attempted to remove the defendant from his damaged vehicle, the defendant was agitated and his breath emitted a strong odor of alcohol. Following the defendant’s arrest, a blood sample taken from him at 4:49 A.M., just over an hour after the accident, indicated that his blood alcohol content was 0.19%.
Alcohol, drugs, guns and driving just don’t go well together. People who are drunk would likely to have lesser self control and would be prone to committing crimes. If you want someone to be convicted of DUI, a Nassau County DUI Lawyer or the Nassau County Criminal Attorney from Stephen Bilkis and Associates would be the best person to represent you in court.
Here, the evidence adduced at trial distinguishes this case from the cases relied upon by the defendant. In a related case, the criminal defendant, who was concerned about being arrested for the theft of a snowplow blade, led police on a 2½ to 4 mile chase while driving in and out of an oncoming lane of traffic. Ultimately, the defendant drove his van into another vehicle, killing a passenger. Also, there was evidence that the defendant was attempting to evade the other cars inasmuch as he crossed over the double solid line and back numerous times. The Court of Appeals determined that the evidence was legally insufficient to establish depraved indifference murder. Here, by contrast, the record does not suggest that the subject accident was the result of the defendant’s attempt to flee from the police, and there was factual proof that the defendant had several opportunities to cease his procession towards oncoming traffic.
Under the facts presented here, the defendant’s action of driving his vehicle towards oncoming traffic on the parkway for approximately five miles constituted reckless conduct which carried with it a grave risk of death and evinced a depraved state of mind. The negation of this intent, by extreme intoxication, is not supported by the record. Thus, the court cannot conclude that the evidence of the defendant’s guilt of murder in the second degree was legally insufficient to support that conviction. Moreover, upon the independent review, the court is satisfied that the verdict of guilt as to depraved indifference murder was not against the weight of the evidence.
Likewise, the evidence was legally sufficient to establish the defendant’s guilt of criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree, and that the verdict of guilt as to that crime was not against the weight of evidence. Contrary to the defendant’s contention, the hearing court properly denied that branch of his omnibus motion which was to suppress the physical evidence seized from his vehicle. The evidence adduced at the suppression hearing demonstrated that the search of the defendant’s vehicle was authorized as a warrantless search falling within the automobile and emergency exceptions to the warrant requirement. Further, the defendant was not deprived of the effective assistance of counsel, as defense counsel provided meaningful representation. The sentence imposed was not excessive.