PEOPLE v. VEGA

Reset A A Font size: Print

The PEOPLE of the State of New York, Respondent, v. John VEGA, Defendant-Appellant.

Decided: December 29, 2009

MAZZARELLI, J.P., CATTERSON, MOSKOWITZ, RICHTER, MANZANET-DANIELS, JJ. Robert S. Dean, Center for Appellate Litigation, New York (Susan H. Salomon of counsel), for appellant. Robert M. Morgenthau, District Attorney, New York (Vincent Rivellese of counsel), for respondent.

Judgment, Supreme Court, New York County (Michael J. Obus, J.), rendered January 5, 2009, convicting defendant, after a jury trial, of murder in the second degree, and sentencing him to a term of 20 years to life, unanimously affirmed.

The court properly declined to submit manslaughter in the first and second degrees as lesser included offenses. There was no reasonable view of the evidence, viewed most favorably to defendant and in connection with his justification defense, that he acted with anything less than homicidal intent. Defendant inflicted 49 stab wounds, mostly to his victim's neck and chest. Of the 23 stab wounds to the victim's neck, 1 cut his carotid artery and 2 severed his jugular vein. The 20 wounds to the victim's chest and back included wounds that penetrated the heart, lung, liver and spleen. Notwithstanding the “principle of deference to the jury on questions of mens rea” (People v. Fernandez, 64 A.D.3d 307, 310 [2009], appeal withdrawn 13 N.Y.3d 796 [2009] ), this conduct could only be interpreted as evincing a deliberate design to ensure the victim's death, and there was no reasonable view that defendant acted recklessly or only with intent to cause serious physical injury (see People v. Butler, 84 N.Y.2d 627 [1994] ).