Muldoon, Getz & Reston

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The “light most favorable” standard 
by Gary Muldoon
Muldoon, Getz & Reston
Rochester, New York

When a trial judge is called on to make a ruling, certain burdens apply: for example, probable cause, preponderance of the evidence, clear and convincing evidence, and beyond a reasonable doubt.

In other situations, the judge must evaluate the evidence by a particular standard. Court rulings term these “in the light most favorable.” Depending on the issue, this standard is evaluated from the prosecution’s viewpoint or the defense viewpoint. 

Among the rulings are the following:
• sufficiency of the grand jury evidence, in the light most favorable to the prosecution, CPL 70.10 (“competent evidence which, if accepted as true, would establish every element of an offense charged and the defendant’s commission thereof”); People v Mikuszewski, 73 NY2d 407 (1989). If the evidence, unexplained and uncontradicted, would warrant a conviction, the motion to inspect grand jury evidence should be denied. People v Keller, 77 AD3d 852 (2d Dept 2010).
• jury charge on a requested defense, from the defense viewpoint. People v Padgett, 60 NY2d 142 (1983) (self defense); People v Butts, 72 NY2d 746 (1988) (agency).
• lesser included offenses, from the defense viewpoint, People v Martin, 59 NY2d 704 (1983).
• trial order of dismissal, from the prosecution’s viewpoint, People v Beecher, 225 AD2d 943 (3d Dept 1996); see CPL 290.10 (if “there is a valid line of reasoning and permissible inferences from which a jury could have found the elements of the crime proved beyond a reasonable doubt”). People v Danielson, 9 NY3d 342, 349 (2007). “Questions of quality or the weight to be given to the proof are not to be considered in such an evaluation.” People v Hampton, 21 NY3d 277, 287 (2013). 

On appeal, the appellate court has the review standard remains the same. For example:
• sufficiency of grand jury evidence on appeal, People v Manini, 79 NY2d 561 (1992).
• legal sufficiency of the evidence, People v Williams, 84 NY2d 925 (1994); People v Reed, 22 NY3d 530 (2014) (totally circumstantial evidence).

© 2015 by Gary Muldoon