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Law School Case Brief

People v. Kaplan - 76 N.Y.2d 140, 556 N.Y.S.2d 976, 556 N.E.2d 415 (1990)

Rule:

N.Y. Penal Law § 20.00 provides that a person may be held criminally liable as an accomplice when he performs certain acts and does so with the mental culpability required for the commission of the substantive crime.

Facts:

The police were investigating a cocaine ring, which was being operated out of an office maintained by defendant Murray Kaplan’s cousin. A detective went to the office to purchase cocaine. Kaplan removed a manila envelope, which contained drugs, from a file cabinet and placed it in front of the detective. Defendant then took the prerecorded money, which the detective had placed on the table. Defendant was charged with the criminal sale of a controlled substance. Defendant argued that the trial court should have instructed the jury that he could not be held liable as an accomplice unless he acted with the specific intent to sell a controlled substance.

Issue:

Did the trial court err in failing to instruct the jury that Kaplan could not be held liable as an accomplice unless he acted with the specific intent to sell a controlled substance?

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

The court found that the elements were adequately conveyed when the jury was instructed that it must find that defendant acted with the specific intent required for the substantive offense and that he intentionally aided the sale.

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