The appeal was filed by the defendant for his conviction of the penal offenses of manslaughter that is considered a crime of terrorism, attempted murder, gun crime and conspiracy.
A law was enacted by the Congress that penalized acts of terrorism due to the terrorist attacks that happened in 2001 enumerating specific crimes considered as acts of terrorism.
On August 18, 2002, members of two rival gangs had a fight that occurred after a party was held in Bronx. A New York Criminal Lawyer said that during the fighting incident, several gun shots were fired that caused the death of a 10-year-old girl and the paralysis of a young guy. The accused was one of the members of a Mexican-American gang and was held responsible for the shootings. The prosecution claimed that said act of defendant was considered a felony of terrorism on the ground that he intended to cause intimidation or coercion towards civilian population, namely, gang members of Mexican-American descents residing in the area of Bronx.
A jury trial commenced and the defendant was found guilty of the three specified offenses that were also considered as crimes of terrorism, thus, the felon filed an appeal questioning the same.
The court held that the evidence presented during trial were insufficient to establish that the acts of the defendant were crimes of terrorism. The term “civilian population” cannot relatively pertain to a limited category of members of rival gangs, although they are all residents of a particular area, which could constitute the offenses charged against the defendant as crimes of terrorism.
It can be noted that the altercation and shooting happened at a christening party that rival gangs’ members attended. The shot guns fired by the defendant were toward rival gang members in the area. Thus, the intention of the defendant’s action of firing the gun was to assert dominance over the rival gang in general and not against the “civilian population” per se.
The applicable legal maxim held by the court in this case is that “Proof of [terroristic intent] in the air, so to speak, will not do.” Furthermore the court considered the intention of the legislature in defining “civil population,” to wit, its meaning “implies an intention to create a pervasively terrorizing effect on people living in a given area, directed either to all residents of the area or to all residents of the area who are members of some broadly defined class, such as a gender, race, nationality, ethnicity, or religion.” The purpose of the shooting was to intimidate the members of rival gangs alone and it did not cover intimidation or coercion of the broader community in general, thus, the act of defendant was not considered an act of terrorism as defined by the statute.
However, the court rejected the defendant’s appeal as to the insufficiency of evidence to support his conviction for the offenses charged against him, namely, attempted murder, manslaughter, criminal possession of a weapon and conspiracy. The prosecution, through its witnesses who are members of the involved rival gangs, established corroborative evidence that would conclude the guilt of the accused as to the commission of said gun crime in question. The jury found the testimonies of the witnesses as credible enough to corroborate their statements in establishing the conviction of the defendant.
The Supreme Court, in light of the foregoing circumstances, amended the judgment of the court finding the defendant guilty of the offenses of manslaughter, attempted murder, criminal possession of a weapon and conspiracy. Necessarily, the Court ordered the resentencing on the reduced counts of the judgment of the court pertaining to the defendant’s aggregate sentence of 40 years.
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