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People v. Weinberg - 83 N.Y.2d 262, 609 N.Y.S.2d 155, 631 N.E.2d 97 (1994)

Rule:

Under N.Y. Crim. Proc. Law § 310.30, when a deliberating jury requests supplementary instruction or information, the court must give such requested information or instruction as the court deems proper. Moreover, a trial court is obliged to respond meaningfully to the jury's inquiries, and the court is vested with some measure of discretion in framing its response and is in the best position to evaluate the jury's request in the first instance. 

Facts:

In Jan. 1987, defendant Jay Weinberg was indicted in New York state court for three misdemeanor counts of failure to file a tax return and one class E felony count of repeated failure to file a tax return in violation of N.Y. Tax Law § 1802, arising from his failure to file New York State personal income tax returns for the years 1983, 1984 and 1985. In Aug. 1987, eight months after he was indicted, Weinberg filed the delinquent returns. Weinberg was ultimately convicted on all counts. Weinberg  appealed, and appellate division affirmed the convictions. Weinberg was granted permission to appeal.

Issue:

Was the conviction proper?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The Court of Appeals of New York affirmed the appellate division's order affirming the trial court's judgment of conviction. The court ruled that § 1802 was not being applied retroactively in Weinberg's case because the actual unlawful conduct, the subsequent failure to file a return, occurred after the statute's effective date. The fact that an antecedent act occurred prior to the effective date did not violate the prohibition against ex post facto laws. The court also ruled that the trial court did not err in providing the jury with a supplemental instruction on the essential element of timeliness. The trial court had a duty, under N.Y. Crim. Proc. Law § 310.30, to respond to the jury's request that the elements of the offenses be repeated. The fact that the trial court initially omitted a discussion on the timeliness element, and had to bring the jury back to correct the omission, did not render the instruction unfair. Finally, the court ruled that, based on a prior decision, Weinberg was not entitled to introduce the concept of jury nullification in summation.

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