People v. Hernandez
New York Court of Appeals
82 N.Y.2d 309, 604 N.Y.S.2d 524 (1993)
David Hernandez and Oswaldo Santana (defendants) conspired to rob a man who was coming to an apartment building to buy drugs. The man was actually an undercover state trooper. When Hernandez accosted the man, the man revealed his identity, and Hernandez ran outside, where the trooper’s backup team was waiting. Instead of surrendering, Hernandez pointed his gun at a backup trooper and moved toward him. The troopers began shooting, and Trooper Joseph Aversa was fatally shot by one of the other troopers. The state (plaintiff) charged Hernandez and Santana with felony murder. Under New York’s felony-murder statute, a defendant commits felony murder if, during the commission or attempted commission of an enumerated felony, either the defendant or an accomplice “causes the death” of a person other than one of the participants. The prosecution asserted that Hernandez caused Aversa’s death by resisting arrest and threatening the backup trooper, which led to the shootout that killed Aversa, even though neither Hernandez nor Santana had fired the fatal shot. The prosecution further asserted that Santana was liable as Hernandez’s accomplice because Hernandez was acting in furtherance of his and Santana’s common criminal objective. Hernandez and Santana were convicted, and they appealed, arguing that the felony-murder charges should have been dismissed because they had not fatally shot Aversa. The appellate division affirmed the convictions, and Hernandez and Santana appealed to the New York Court of Appeals.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Simons, J.)
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