September 8, 2017

Cardozo’s Criminal Appeals Clinic won a new trial for a client who was serving a 7 ½ year sentence for possession of a weapon he used to defend himself. The appeal in the case of People v. Luis Bonilla was briefed and argued by Patricia Zapata ‘17 and supervised by Clinic Director Stanley Neustadter. 

The client had been approached by a group, one of whom pointed a pistol at him. The client snatched the pistol, and walked away. A few minutes later, the group pursued and menaced him, and he used the gun to shoot and kill one of them. He was charged with homicide. The jury acquitted him on the basis of self-defense, but convicted him of weapons possession. The conviction was reversed by the Appellate Division because the trial judge refused to instruct the jury to acquit if it found that the client’s possession of the weapon was “temporary” and “innocent.”