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The Criminal Mind: What Constitutes Proof Of Criminal Conscious Objectives


Criminal Appeals Lawyer Proof Of Conscious Objective

People v Gordon

2014 NY Slip Op 04227

New York Court Of Appeals

Decided on June 12, 2014

The Failure To Find Evidence Of Stolen Property On Defendant Is But One Fact That The Jury Considers In FInding Defendant’s Conscious Objective

See Also: Driving While Intoxicated: Two Distinct Standards Regarding Expert Testimony-One Is For Chemical Test (1192.2) And The Other Is For Common Law (1192.3)

Summary: Defendant Hazel Gordon and her son were shopping at a mall. Security suspected that Defendant stole merchandize and stopped the group as they were about to exit the store. Security asked Defendant to return to the store because she had merchandise that wasn’t paid for. She ignored the guard, got into her car and pulled off hitting one of the guards with her car. Defendant’s son ran away from the security guards and was later arrested and brought to the police station. Defendant drove to the Police station, got out of the car in an attempt to get her son where she was subdued with a taser and arrested her.

At trial, the People submitted video footage, which corroborated the live testimony. The video footage shows the Defendant’s suspicious handling of earrings around the jewelry department and the altercation between Defendant and the security guards outside the store’s exit. The jury found Defendant guilty of one count of robbery in the first-degree, two counts of robbery in the second degree, and one count of assault in the second-degree.  On Appeal, Defendant alleged that because the earrings were not found, the jury could not reasonably infer that she threatened or used force to retain possession of that property. With respect to the assault, she states the people failed to establish that it was her ‘conscious objective’ to cause physical injury to the security guards when she ran him over with her car. The Court Of Appeals held, just as a possession of the property is but one fact which support’s a jury’s reasonable inference of Defendant’s “conscious objective”, failure to recover the property from the Defendant is also a fact for the jury to consider in determining whether the People have established the requisite intent.

Issue: Whether the failure to find evidence of stolen property on Defendant precludes a jury’s finding of Defendant’s conscious objective in threatening to use physical force to prevent the retention of that property.

Holding: No, the failure to find evidence of stolen property on Defendant is but one fact that the jury considers in finding Defendant’s conscious objective. The Defendant’s actions were elaborate to ensure her retention of the stolen property. There is ample evidence to support a reasonable inference from Defendant’s suspicious handling of the earrings in the store, the removal of the backings of those earrings to determine that the Defendant stole merchandize and threatened or used physical force to prevent or overcome resistance to retain that property.

Facts: Defendant Hazel Gordon and her son were shopping at a mall with her friends. Defendant and her co-defendant were suspiciously handling earrings when Security took notice. Security asked Defendant and her friends to return to the store because she had merchandise that wasn’t paid for. She ignored the guard, got into her car and pulled off hitting one of the guards with her car. Defendant’s son ran away from the security guards and was later arrested and brought to the police station. Defendant drove to the Police station, got out of the car in an attempt to get her son where she was subdued with a taser and arrested her.

At trial, the People submitted video footage, which corroborated the live testimony. The video footage shows the Defendant’s suspicious handling of earrings around the jewelry department and the altercation between Defendant and the security guards outside the store’s exit. The jury found Defendant guilty of one count of robbery in the first-degree, two counts of robbery in the second degree, and one count of assault in the second-degree.  On Appeal, Defendant alleged that because the earrings were not found, the jury could not reasonably infer that she threatened or used force to retain possession of that property. With respect to the assault, she states the people failed to establish that it was her ‘conscious objective’ to cause physical injury to the security guards when she ran him over with her car.

Legal Analysis: The Court Of Appeals held, just as possession of the property is but one fact which support’s the jury’s reasonable inference of Defendant’s “conscious objective,” failure to recover the property from the Defendant is also a fact for the jury to consider in determining whether the People have established the requisite intent. Where sufficient facts and reasonable inferences support a finding of intent to forcibly steal, even where the stolen property is not recovered from the Defendant, a jury should be permitted to make such a finding. The fact that the earrings were not recovered from her or her friends does not make the inference unreasonable or render the evidence legally insufficient. The jury considered the failure to recover the earrings and still found evidence of intent by Defendant’s conduct inside and outside the store.

            The Court Of Appeals held that the long-standing recognition that a jury is entitled to assess the credibility of witnesses and determine, for itself, what portion of their testimony to accept and the weight such testimony should be given. The Court Of Appeals affirmed.