People v. Lawson
Justice Robert Charles Kohm
Defendants, Lawson, McDonald and Worth, charged with robbery and weapons offenses in an 18 count indictment arising from their alleged participation in an armed robbery of Spencer and attempted robbery of Louisen, sought to sever their trials from each other. Defendants contended severance was warranted by the appearance of antagonistic defenses, among other things. The court agreed, noting the defense of Worth, claiming he did not know Lawson and McDonald, and they jumped into his vehicle holding guns after Worth heard gun shots in the vicinity, was in irreconcilable conflict with Lawson and McDonald's defenses, and must be deemed antagonistic. It stated defense counsel indicated Worth intended to lay the entire blame for the subject crimes directly "at the doorstep of the co-defendants." Yet, as the guns were found in the vehicle, and not on the person of any of the occupants, Worth was faced with the statutory presumption of possession under Penal Law §265.15(3). The court found co-defendants' testimony and defenses were "so in conflict with that of Worth" there was a danger that conflict alone would lead the jury to infer Worth's guilt. Thus, it permitted only the severance of Worth's trial from co-defendants.