Law School Case Brief
People v Olsen - 2015 NY Slip Op 00574, 124 A.D.3d 1084, 1 N.Y.S.3d 555 (App. Div. 1st Dept.)
Where a different verdict would not have been unreasonable, the appellate court must view the evidence in a neutral light and, like the trier of fact below, weigh the relative probative force of conflicting testimony and the relative strength of conflicting inferences that may be drawn from the testimony.
Defendant Deana M. Olsen was driving northbound on a two-lane county road on her way to ride horses with a friend when she lost control of her sport utility vehicle, causing it to travel off the road and onto the front lawn of the victim's property. Olsen's vehicle fatally struck the victim before crashing into a stone wall. Consequently, defendant was charged in an eight-count indictment with various crimes and traffic infractions. After a bench trial in New York state court, Olsen was found guilty of criminally negligent homicide, reckless driving, use of a portable electronic device while operating a motor vehicle and failure to keep right. The trial court sentenced Olsen to a prison term on the criminally negligent homicide conviction and assessed fines and surcharges in relation to the other convictions. Olsen appealed.
Was Olsen's conviction for criminally negligent homicide, reckless driving and use of a portable electronic device while operating a motor vehicle against the weight of the evidence?
The appellate division affirmed the county court's judgment. The court ruled that, viewing the evidence in a neutral light, namely that Olsen engaged in unsafe passing and drove in an erratic manner while looking at her cell phone, which ultimately caused her to lose control of her vehicle and fatally strike an innocent bystander, and deferring to the county court's opportunity to view the witnesses, hear the testimony and observe demeanor, Olsen's convictions were not contrary to the weight of the evidence. In rejecting Olsen's claim that her sentence was excessive, the court observed that the county court imposed the maximum prison sentence allowed for the criminally negligent homicide conviction in response to Olsen's apparent lack of remorse and statements that she made at sentencing, in which she compared her situation to that of the victim of her own crime. Under such circumstances, the court ruled, and in the absence of any abuse of discretion by the sentencing court, the a reduction of Olsen's sentence was not warranted.
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