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People v. Bonilla

Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court
95 A.D.2d 396 (1983)


Facts

Bonilla (defendant) shot Miranda in the head. At the hospital, Dr. Rosenberg declared Miranda “brain dead” and had his kidneys and spleen removed for transplant purposes. The medical examiner, Dr. Wald, verified that the bullet wound was the cause of death and testified that brain death had occurred, though it could not be determined exactly when. Dr. Wald also could not conclude how long Miranda might have survived in a brain-dead state if his organs had not been removed. Dr. Beresford, a defense witness, testified that Dr. Rosenberg used insufficient tests to determine brain death, and Miranda may actually have been alive when he was pronounced dead. At the time of trial, the definition of death in New York was unsettled. Bonilla was convicted for the homicide and appealed, arguing that Miranda’s death was caused by someone else under any definition. Bonilla asserted two alternative arguments: (1) if the court follows the traditional definition of death, described as the stopping of heartbeat and breath, then Miranda was alive until his organs were removed and life support was ended by the independent, intervening acts of the hospital doctors; or (2) if the court understands death as occurring when a person is declared brain dead, the inadequate tests used by Dr. Rosenberg resulted in an incorrect determination of brain death, and Miranda was alive at the time life support ceased.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Rubin, J.)

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Concurrence/Dissent (Titone, J.)

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