Thursday, March 12, 2009

Defenses Flop, but at Least They Were Creative

Defenses Flop, but at Least They Were Creative

One has to hand it to Antonio Cruzado Jr. -- or at least to his lawyer -- for being creative in his defense. Sure, he sped off in the car he'd just stolen with one Christopher Adams clinging to the door, holding on for dear life. But it wasn't his fault that Adams jumped on the car and tried to stop him from stealing it. After all, Adams jumped on of his own free will. Why should Cruzado be found guilty of assault and battery?

Come to think of it, why should he even be convicted for robbery? The law defines robbery as larceny from a person by force and violence. When Cruzado jumped in and snatched the Honda Civic from a Cambridge, Mass., gas station, no one noticed until after he started to drive away. Yes, Adams and the car's owner chased after him. Yes, he sped off with Adams clinging to the car after trying to open the door. But at the moment he actually started the car and drove off, no force or violence were involved.

The arguments are so clever they almost make sense. But the Massachusetts Appeals Court didn't buy any of it. In a decision issued this week, Commonwealth v. Cruzado, it upheld Cruzado's convictions of unarmed robbery and assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon -- the dangerous weapon being the Honda Civic. On the assault and battery charge, Cruzado argued to the Appeals Court that there was no battery "because it was Adams who brought himself into contact with the Honda." The court saw it otherwise, concluding that a jury could have found that he intended to use both the car and his hands in a dangerous manner.

While driving he intentionally accelerated the Honda as Adams was holding onto it, drove the Honda through a red light, swerved in traffic, and traveled several blocks at a speed of thirty to forty miles per hour. At the same time, the defendant used his hands to attempt to dislodge Adams from the Honda.

As for the robbery charge, Cruzado contended that he did not use force in taking the Civic, since no one was looking. But the court said that the victims' pursuit and the defendant's attempt to escape provided the requisite force.

Here, a rational jury could have found that the Honda was taken from Adams's person as the robbery was not complete when the defendant was still fleeing the scene while being pursued by Adams. The defendant accelerated the car and pushed at Adams's hands to attempt to remove the car from Adams's grasp and to complete the theft.

And so Cruzado earns points for creativity but flops in his effort to stay out of jail. That was especially bad news for this particular defendant. As a habitual criminal, he was given a sentence of life in prison.

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Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on March 11,

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