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People v. Caruso

Court of Appeals of New York
246 N.Y. 437 (1927)


Facts

Francesco Caruso (defendant) was an Italian immigrant living in an apartment with his wife and children. According to Caruso’s testimony, on February 11, his six-year-old son became sick with a sore throat, which Caruso treated with drug-store medicine. His son’s condition worsened, and at 10 o’clock in the evening on February 12, Caruso called Dr. Pendola, who was recommended to him. Dr. Pendola arrived shortly afterward and diagnosed the child with diphtheria. The doctor sent Caruso out to buy some antitoxin, which the doctor administered. Dr. Pendola also gave Caruso another prescription, with instructions, and promised to return the next morning. Caruso watched his son all night, administering the medication. Throughout the night, the child’s sickness continued worsening. Caruso could not reach Dr. Pendola, and Caruso’s son died. Dr. Pendola arrived the next afternoon, at which time he was told the child died. Caruso testified that upon hearing the news, the doctor laughed. Caruso believed this, though it is likely the doctor’s facial muscles twitched in such a way that may have been mistaken for a smile. The doctor’s reaction, coupled with Caruso’s apparent belief that the dose of antitoxin given to his son was too large and the doctor’s denial of the accusations, caused Caruso to attack the doctor in anger, choking him until he fell. Caruso then went to the closet about 10 feet away and retrieved a knife, which he used to stab the doctor twice in the throat, killing him. Caruso was arrested later that night. Caruso did not deny that he killed the doctor. The jury was given instructions on homicide, deliberation, and premeditation, which were the requirements for a conviction of first-degree murder. Caruso was convicted, and he appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Andrews, J.)

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