Wednesday, February 27, 2013

People v. Goetz case brief

People v. Goetz case brief summary
68 N.Y.2d 96

SYNOPSIS: Prosecutor appealed from an order of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in the First Judicial Department (New York), which affirmed the dismissal of an indictment charging criminal defendant with attempted murder, assault, and criminal possession of a weapon, with leave to resubmit the charges to another Grand Jury.

FACTS: A Grand Jury indicted defendant on attempted murder, assault, and criminal possession of a weapon for having shot and wounded four youths on a subway train after one or two of the youths approached him and asked for money. The lower courts, concluding that the prosecutor's charge to the Grand Jury on the defense of justification was erroneous, dismissed the charges.

The reviewing court held that although N. Y. Penal Law § 35.15, and its predecessors, never required that an actor's belief as to the intention of another person to inflict serious injury be correct in order for the use of deadly force to be justified, the provisions had uniformly required that the belief comport with an objective notion of reasonableness.

The court concluded that although the prosecutor's instructions were not as complete as the court's charge on justification should be, they sufficiently apprised the Grand Jury of the defense.

A person may use deadly force in self-defense if they reasonably believe that such force is necessary to protect oneself.

OUTCOME: Dismissal of the indictment was reversed, and the indictment reinstated because the prosecutor sufficiently apprised the Grand Jury of the requirements of the defense of justification to allow it to intelligently decide that there was sufficient evidence tending to disprove justification and necessitating a trial.

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