4th Department: People v. Philippe

This case involved an appeal from a conviction for three counts of criminal possession of a forged instrument in the second degree and one count of reckless endangerment in the first degree.  The defendant led law enforcement on a chase in heavy traffic conditions, exceeded the speed limit, ran several red lights, and collided with several vehicles.  The appellate division reversed the conviction on the first three counts and dismissed count four without prejudice.

The defendant, Jeffrey Jean-Philippe, claimed that he was denied a fair trial because the lower court refused to dismiss a juror who was seen falling asleep during trial.  While the lower court attempted to rehabilitate the juror by asking if she had “missed any relevant or important … parts … of the testimony” and if she “heard everything that [she] need[ed] to know thus far,” the appellate division found that this was insufficient.  In the defendant’s case, a dismissal of the juror would have required a mistrial since there were no alternate jurors.  The appellate division held that it is well-established that a juror who has not heard all of the evidence is grossly unqualified to render a verdict, and therefore, the only proper course of action would have been to dismiss the juror.

The court also agreed with the defendant that the evidence presented at trial was legally insufficient to support his conviction for count four.  The court pointed out that to be guilty of reckless endangerment in the first degree it must be proven that the defendant acted under “circumstances evincing a depraved indifference to human life,” N.Y. Penal Law § 170.25, yet evidence of that was not presented at trial.  While the defendant ran multiple traffic lights and collided with several cars, this was not enough to show the required depraved indifference to human life necessary to support a conviction of reckless endangerment in the first degree.  The court dismissed count four of the indictment without prejudice.  In addition, the court rejected the defendant’s argument that the three counts relating to a forged instrument were multiplicitous.

101 A.D.3d 1582, 956 N.Y.S.2d 709 (4th Dep’t 2012).

 View full decision on Westlaw

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