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Court Determines Deadlock Jury Instruction Used


This is an appeal case. The appellant is Stephen S. Lavalle. The respondent for the case is the People of the State of New York. The case is being heard in the Court of Appeals of the state of New York.

A New York Sex Crimes Lawyer said Stephen S. Lavalle, the appellant, was found guilty of first degree murder in the course of a first degree rape by a jury in Suffolk County. Lavalle has received a death sentence for these crimes. He is appealing the death penalty.

Case Background and Facts

On Saturday, May 31st in 1997, the body of a woman named Cynthia Quinn was found in the woods that are located near Mills Road in Yaphank, which is a village in the county of Suffolk. Her back, chest, arms, and neck were covered with puncture wounds, 73 in total. A New York Sex Crimes Lawyer said the wounds were made with a screwdriver type instrument. She had also been raped, had a broken rib, and was covered with bruises and abrasions.

She had been seen on her morning job approximately six hours earlier. By about 7:30 am, her husband became worried as she had not returned. He started to search for her. She was expected back to the home by 7 as he had to be at work by 7:30. Additionally, her husband knew that she had a track meet that particular morning.

Her husband and her two children searched the area around his car and then enlisted several volunteer firemen to help. Police officers joined the search later and eventually two of the firefighters discovered her body.

On the same morning at an earlier time, Monique Sturm was robbed and attacked by a man who bumped into her care on a road located in Port Jefferson, approximately eight miles from where they found the body. A Nassau County Sex Crimes Lawyer said that she stated that the man forced himself into her car on the driver’s side and she was able to escape through the passenger door. She bit his finger during the struggle. She called 911 at 5:57 am. She described the assailant and his car. Her wallet was later found near the murder scene.

The two events were connected, inferring that the same individual was behind both incidents. During pretrial testimony it was shown that a pedestrian had been attacked by a person that drove a similar vehicle, approximately three weeks before these events.

During his trial the defendant eventually confessed to murdering Cynthia Quinn.

Case Discussion and Decision

The court has reviewed the case and came to the conclusion that the death penalty cannot be invoked on the defendant. The reason is that the jury was told that in the case of a deadlock a life without parole will be issued. A Queens Sex Crimes Lawyer said this constitutes as a motivate for a juror and cannot be used. We find that the deadlock instruction that was given is unconstitutional under article one section six of the State Constitution.

For these reasons the court will uphold the conviction and vacate the sentence of death. The case will be resubmitted to the court for a new sentencing hearing to be held in the matter.

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