New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Fourth Judicial Department
Justification charge – Unintended injury
Appealed from Supreme Court, Monroe County
Background: The defendant appealed from his conviction of assault and aggravated criminal contempt. The conviction arose from a late-night interaction between the defendant and the complainant, the defendant’s former girlfriend who had an order of protection against him but continued to socialize with him. The complainant sustained two serious stab wounds. The defendant argues that the court erred in denying his request for a justification charge as he claims the injuries were inflicted accidentally during an act of self-defense.
Ruling: The Appellate Division reversed. The court held that it was in error to conclude that a justification charge was unavailable where there’s either an accidental stabbing or an unintentional stabbing in refusing to acknowledge the case law provided, which demonstrated the court’s misstatement of the law. The defendant’s statements with a police investigator, including an audio recording, indicated that the stabbing injuries were the unintended result of the defendant’s defensive maneuvers. The complainant, while intoxicated, confronted him with a knife and swung it at him, prompting him to act defensively by twisting the complainant’s arm behind her back with the knife still in her hand.
Tonya Plank, of the public defender’s office, for the defendant-appellant; Kaylan C. Porter, of the district attorney’s office, for the respondent.