People v. DeLee

This appeal addresses the proper remedy for a repugnant verdict. The defendant Dwight DeLee, was indicted for second-degree murder, second-degree murder as a hate crime, and third-degree criminal weapon possession by a Syracuse grand jury. He was convicted of the lesser charge of first-degree manslaughter as a hate crime, and acquitted of the lesser charge of first-degree manslaughter. After the jury verdict, defense counsel moved to set aside the verdict as repugnant. Defense argued that due to the two convictions sharing the same basic elements, he could not be guilty of first-degree manslaughter as a hate crime and not guilty of ordinary first-degree manslaughter. The People submitted an affidavit of the jury’s foreperson as evidence that the jury must have concluded the ordinary first-degree manslaughter charge was superfluous when convicting on a first-degree murder as a hate crime charge. At sentencing, the judge denied the defense’s motion to set aside the verdict as repugnant and the defendant appealed. The Appellate Division affirmed, however reversed the defendant’s conviction for first-degree manslaughter as a hate crime and dismissed the first count of the indictment. The Appellate Division reasoned that by acquitting the defendant of first-degree manslaughter, the jury found that the People had failed to prove the elements beyond a reasonable doubt. Thus, the conviction of first-degree manslaughter as a hate crime was inconsistent, as it required the same elements with one added element. The People appealed with permission of the lone dissenting justice.

Here, the Court held that the jury determination was inconsistent, and therefore repugnant. The Court reasoned that all of the elements of first-degree manslaughter are included in the elements of first-degree manslaughter as a hate crime. To find the defendant guilty of first-degree manslaughter would mean that at least one element of the crime has not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.  The Court found the People’s argument unpersuasive and the jury instructions to consider the charges separately, clear.  On the issue of the appropriate remedy, the Court found that no constitutional or statutory provision mandated reversal for a repugnancy error.  The Court granted the People leave to resubmit the crime of first-degree manslaughter as a hate crime to a new grand jury.

24 N.Y.3d 1119 (N.Y. 2015)

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