A state appeals court has reinstated an indictment on a manslaughter charge that had been dismissed on the ground of legally insufficient evidence.
About 3:15 p.m., on Oct. 13, 2019, a car driven by defendant Jason Castro and another car were involved in a fatal accident. Castro was charged with two counts of second-degree manslaughter and reckless driving.
In December 2020, Rockland County Court Judge Kevin F. Russo granted a defense motion to dismiss the indictment on the ground that the evidence presented to the grand jury was legally insufficient. The prosecutor appealed.
“A court reviewing the legal sufficiency of an indictment must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the People and determine whether the evidence, if unexplained and uncontradicted, would be legally sufficient to support a verdict of guilt after trial,” according to a decision released Wednesday by the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court, Second Department.
“Legally sufficient evidence is defined … as ‘competent evidence which, if accepted as true, would establish every element of an offense charged.’”
“In the context of a grand jury proceeding, legal sufficiency means prima facie proof of the crimes charged, not proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” the court wrote.
“A person is guilty of manslaughter in the second degree when he or she recklessly causes the death of another person.”
A person acts recklessly when they are aware of and consciously disregard a substantial and unjustifiable risk that such result will occur, or that such circumstance exists,” the court wrote.
“The risk must be of such nature and degree that disregard thereof constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person would observe in the situation,” the panel wrote.
“Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the People, we find that it was legally sufficient to support the charges of manslaughter in the second degree,” the Second Department ruled.
According to the evidence presented to the grand jury, in addition to speeding about 80 to 90 miles per hour, Castro’s car and the other car “were weaving in and out of traffic, without braking or signaling,” according to the decision.
As the two cars approached a sharp bend in the road, they were side-by-side, with the other car in the left lane.
Castro tried to turn into the left lane and hit the other car, which hit the left curb and flew “at least a couple of hundred feet” in the air before coming to rest, according to the decision.
Both passengers in that car were killed.
Castro told police he did not see the other car when he tried to turn into the left lane, but he also said he was “kind of racing” with the other car.
“Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the People, we find that it was legally sufficient to support the charge that the defendant engaged in reckless driving,” the court ruled.
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