appeals from the judgment of the Supreme Court, Bronx County
(Margaret L. Clancy, J.), rendered March 20, 2015, convicting
him, after a jury trial, of murder in the second degree and
criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree, and
W. Sweeny, Jr., J.P., Richard T. Andrias, Karla Moskowitz,
Marcy L. Kahn, Ellen Gesmer, JJ.
Richard T. Wojszwilo, New York, for appellant.
D. Clark, District Attorney, Bronx (Eric C. Washer and Nancy
D. Killian of counsel), for respondent.
Alexis Sanchez was convicted, after a jury trial, of murder
in the second degree and criminal possession of a weapon in
the second degree, arising out of the shooting death of
Stephen Mari. Defendant, who did not testify, put forth a
justification defense based on a videotaped statement that he
gave to the police giving his version of the shooting, which
the People introduced into evidence to definitively place the
defendant at the scene.
appeal, we are asked to decide whether the jury's verdict
convicting defendant of murder in the second degree was
against the weight of the evidence.
Standards of Review
of the evidence review involves a two-step approach.
(People v Romero, 7 N.Y.3d 633, 643 ). First,
the Court must determine whether, based on all the credible
evidence, an acquittal would not have been unreasonable
(id.; People v Bleakley, 69 N.Y.2d 490, 495
). If so, then the appellate court must weigh the
relative probative force of conflicting testimony and the
relative strength of conflicting inferences that may be drawn
from the testimony (People v Danielson, 9 N.Y.3d
342, 348 ; Romero, 7 N.Y.3d at 643;
Bleakley, 69 N.Y.2d at 495). That step is performed
by weighing the evidence against the elements as charged to
the jury (Danielson, 9 N.Y.3d at 349). The evidence
must be of such weight and credibility as to convince the
Court that the jury's finding of the defendant's
guilt beyond a reasonable doubt was justified (People v
Mateo, 2 N.Y.3d 383, 410 , cert denied
542 U.S. 946');">542 U.S. 946 ).
relationship between the role of the jury in the finding of
facts and the role of the intermediate appellate court in
review of the facts has been stated as follows:
with this unique factual review, intermediate appellate
courts have been careful not to substitute themselves for the
jury. Great deference is accorded to the fact-finder's
opportunity to view the witnesses, hear the testimony and
observe demeanor. Without question the differences between
what the jury does and what the appellate court does in
weighing evidence are delicately nuanced, but differences
there are" (Romero, 7 N.Y.3d at 644, quoting
Bleakley, 69 N.Y.2d at 495).
Court has held that reversal of a judgment of conviction on
weight of the evidence review is not warranted in the absence
of record evidence indicating "that the jury's
findings of credibility and fact were manifestly erroneous
and so plainly unjustified by the evidence that rejection is
required in the interest of justice'" (People v
Bartley, 219 A.D.2d 566, 567 [1st Dept 1995], quoting
People v Corporan, 169 A.D.2d 643, 643 [1st Dept
1991]; see People v Castillo, 223 A.D.2d 481, 481
[1st Dept 1996] [same]).
defense of justification of use of deadly physical force may
be raised where the defendant "believes that [another]
person is using or about to use deadly physical force"
(Penal Law § 35.15[a]) and "to the extent he or
she reasonably believes such to be necessary to defend
himself, herself or a third person from what he or she
reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of unlawful
physical force by such other person" (Penal Law §
35.15). Weight of the evidence analysis is applicable to
the defense of justification, which the People are required
to disprove beyond a reasonable doubt (see People v
Umali, 37 A.D.3d 164, 165 [1st Dept 2007], affd
10 N.Y.3d 417');">10 N.Y.3d 417 , cert denied 556 U.S. 1110');">556 U.S. 1110
; see People v Gibson, 141 A.D.3d 1009,
1011-1012 [3d Dept 2016]).
following facts were uncontested at trial. During the evening
hours of November 2, 2011, Stephen Mari was shot in an
alleyway located in the vicinity of 1523 Purdy Street in the
Bronx, 130 yards from the high school defendant had attended,
and left to die. There were no eyewitnesses to the actual
shooting. Shortly after the shooting took place, police
officers found Mari's body lying facedown in a pool of
blood inside the alleyway, which was 20 feet 6 inches in
length and 7 feet wide. Mari, who was 5 feet 11 inches tall
and weighed 250 pounds, had sustained six gunshot wounds -
one each to his head and upper left arm and four to his
torso. There was no blood found on the tee shirt Mari was
wearing and no fouling or stippling on the skin near any of
the entrance wounds on his body. The police, who arrived on
the scene shortly after the shooting, recovered a wallet from
Mari's body containing Mari's identification, but no
money. Police detectives also recovered eight shell casings,
one of which was found just outside the alleyway.
People's case at trial was as follows. Mamadou Bah
testified that on the night of the shooting, he saw an
Hispanic man wearing a hooded sweatshirt sitting alone in the
driver's seat of a car which was double-parked on Purdy
Street. He then witnessed the man exiting the car and
proceeding toward the alleyway. Bah then heard several shots
fired, and then saw the man run back from the alleyway to the
car and drive off.
Campos, a New York Police Department sergeant who was off
duty on the night of the shooting, testified that on that
night he was waiting in his car to pick up his
girlfriend's son from school when he heard four shots
fired in quick succession. Two seconds later, he heard two
more shots. He walked in the direction of the shots and then
saw a man run out of an alleyway, jump into a dark sports
utility vehicle and drive off.
Rosa, who also heard the shots, called 911. Her statement was
that she told the 911 operator that she heard "four
shots followed by a pause followed by four shots" but
was too scared to look outside.
People presented evidence that after the shooter fled, the
investigating detectives ascertained further information from
conversations with Mari's son, Stephen Mari, Jr. Mari,
Jr. stated that two days before the shooting a man named
"Alex" had come to Mari's house in order to buy
drugs from him. Mari, Jr. stated that Mari let
"Alex" into his home and told his son to make him
"feel comfortable" while Mari assembled his drugs
and accepted only partial payment for the drugs from
"Alex, " allowing him to depart amicably, with
"Alex" promising to pay the balance of $35 in a
couple of days. Mari, Jr. told police that "Alex"
still owed Mari the money. He also mentioned that his father
could bench press 350 pounds and would "manhandle"
him. Using Mari's cell phone records, police identified
"Alex" as defendant. A detective went to
defendant's house several times, but defendant's
mother told the detective that defendant was in "a