AD1 affirms trial court order setting aside verdict

In People v. Rios (1st Dept. 9/22/2011), the previous manager of a building as well as the corporate owner, were found guilty of Criminally Negligent Homicide and Reckless Endangerment 2º.   The victims in the case were two firefighters who were killed while trying to extinguish the flames.  Two of the apartments had unsafe conditions.  The first had faulty wiring.  The second had an illegal partition.  The fire started in the first apartment and then spread.  The People's theory was that the conditions in the second apartment were the cause of the firefighters' deaths and that the manager had actual knowledge of them.

Following the conviction, the trial court set aside the verdict under CPL § 330.30, finding insufficient evidence of knowledge.  The First Department agreed with the decision.  "The inferences upon which the People rely are impermissibly speculative. Furthermore, the People called the building's superintendent, who testified that he knew about the partition in 4-L but never told Rios about it. Even if the jury discredited that testimony, such disbelief would not supply affirmative proof of the contrary proposition."  (LC)

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