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People v. Russell

Court of Appeals of New York
693 N.E.2d 193 (1998)


During the course of a gun battle between Russell (defendant) and two other individuals on the streets of Brooklyn, New York, Patrick Daly, a public school principal was shot and killed. All three engaged in the gun battle were charged with second-degree murder. Ballistics tests were not able to confirm whose gun fired the fatal shot. The prosecution’s theory was that each defendant acted with the mental culpability required for the commission of the crime and that each “intentionally aided” the actual individual who fired the fatal shot. The trial judge instructed the jury, “[i]f you find that the People have proven beyond a reasonable doubt that defendants took up each other’s challenge, shared in the venture and unjustifiably, voluntarily and jointly created a zone of danger, then each is responsible for his own acts and the acts of others and it makes no difference whose bullet killed Daly.”  The jury convicted Russell and the other two defendants and each appealed. The appellate court affirmed the convictions and each defendant appealed.

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Holding and Reasoning (Kaye, C.J.)

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