Weak Evidence Leads to New Trial

by TChris

A federal judge presiding over a criminal trial may "vacate any judgment and grant a new trial if the interest of justice so requires." Northern District of New York Judge Lawrence Kahn exercised that power to assure that a second jury would review the dubious evidence of Steven Robinson's guilt.

Robinson is accused of committing a drive-by killing in connection with a dispute among drug dealers. A wounded victim, Aukland Dubery, "identified Robinson as being present on the scene, and Dubery only did so after telling police at the crime scene and two days later at the hospital that he did not know who had shot him."

This inconsistency was not the only problem that plagued Dubrey's testimony. He also admitted that he had smoked three marijuana cigars in the six hours leading up to the shooting. And he only identified the defendant after his girlfriend went to the police and offered his cooperation in return for placement in the Witness Protection Progam for two years, benefits included.

Other witness testimony was also contradictory as to whether Robinson was a passenger or the driver of the car, but that testimony was discredited at trial.

Judges too often accept skinny evidence, leaving the defendant's fate to the jury. Judge Kahn had the courage to assure that Robinson wasn't unjustly convicted. The Second Circuit recently affirmed that decision, while expressing no view as to whether a second conviction on the same evidence could also be set aside.

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