No matter how long your criminal defense lawyer or criminal defense attorney has practiced in the courts of New York, every criminal trial he or she faces is unique and can have complex legal issues. During a criminal trial a defendant may be charged with multiple crimes and the jury may find the defendants guilty of, all, none or an assortment of crimes charges but not all of them. After the verdict is issued, a criminal defense attorney can argue that the verdict should be overturned for various reasons. Two potential ways your criminal lawyer can challenge a verdict is if the verdict is legally repugnant or legally insufficient.
A jury verdict is legally repugnant if the verdict is inherently inconsistent when viewed in light of the elements of each crime as charged to the jury. The repugnancy claim can be a useful legal tool when the jury verdict is inconsistent with the elements of the crime and should be used to overturn inherently inconsistent verdicts. People v. Forde illuminates some of the issues that can arise when a legal repugnancy or a legal sufficiency claim is made.
In People v. Forde, the defendants Forde and Snow, along with an unknown third male, entered a Bloomingdale’s department store in midtown Manhattan and made five purchases totaling over three thousand dollars. Upon entering the Bloomingdales, the defendants and their accomplices quickly and randomly selected an assortment of expensive merchandise, placed the merchandise on a counter and used forged credit cards to purchase the items. After purchasing the merchandise all the defendants left the department store. The forged credit cards were embedded with stolen credit card numbers belonging to several individuals living in Texas. After leaving Bloomingdale’s the defendant’s then used the forged credit cards at Barney’s to buy a pair of shoes.
Defendant Forde was charged in a twenty-nine count indictment with committing the crimes of Identity Theft in the First Degree (Penal Law 190.80(1)); Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree (Penal Law 170.25); Identity Theft in the Second Degree (Penal Law 190.79(1)); Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Fourth Degree (Penal Law 165.45(2)); Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree (Penal Law 155.30(1)); and Petit Larceny (Penal Law 155.25). These crimes ranged from a “D” felony punishable by up to seven years in prison and an “A” misdemeanor punishable by as much as one year in jail.
Subsequent to a jury trial both defendants were only convicted of Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree (PL 155.30, an “E” felony”) and Petit Larceny (PL 155.25, an “A” misdemeanor). The jury acquitted the defendants of all other charges. Following the verdict the defendant’s attorneys moved to set aside the verdicts arguing that the verdict was repugnant and not based on legally sufficient evidence.
The court had to make an important distinction in Forde between factually repugnant and legally repugnant. A verdict cannot be set aside if it is merely factually repugnant, it must also be legally repugnant. In this case, despite the jury’s verdict’s factual repugnancy, it was not legally repugnant because the crimes the defendant was acquitted of do not share the same essential elements of the crimes the defendant was convicted of by a jury.
The defense also raised a legal sufficiency claim as a grounds to overturn the jury verdict. The court found that the jury could reject the people’s theory that the defendant’s knowingly and intentionally committed Identity Theft (using account information of other people on the forged credit cards) and possessed forged and at the same time determine there was legal evidence to support the theory that defendants intentionally stole property from Bloomingdale’s and Barney’s. Simply, the jury’s finding of guilt that there was a theft did not require a finding that the other crimes were committed.
So, what is the value of Forde to an accused? First, while on its face it may often appear that New York Identity Theft crimes involving credit cards and New York Grand Larceny crimes involving the property that is ultimately stolen may appear “joined at the hip,” the offenses are distinct. Each can exist without the other. An acquittal of one does not guarantee an acquittal of the other. Second, on a broader scale, repugnancy is a potential tool in your criminal lawyer’s arsenal should a verdict fall within the limited scope of this “defense.” At bottom, you and your attorney must be educated and prepared through all stages of litigation.
To read more about the crimes of Criminal Possession of Stolen Property, Identity Theft, Grand Larceny and Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument, follow the links above and below for extensive content maintained on Saland Law PC’s websites and blogs.
Saland Law PC is a criminal defense firm located in lower Manhattan by both the New York City and Federal criminal courts. Established by two former Manhattan prosecutors the New York criminal lawyers at Saland Law PC represent clients throughout the region.