Monday, May 2nd, 2016

Conviction May Be Sustained upon the Uncorroborated Testimony of a Single Accomplice

In United States v. Fernandez et al., Docket No. 14-4158-cr (L), a summary order issued today, the Circuit principally reaffirms the longstanding rule that “a conviction can be sustained on the basis of testimony from a single accomplice, so long as the testimony is not incredible on its face and is capable of establishing guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.” Order at 3 (citing United Sates v. Diaz, 176 F.3d 52, 92 (2d Cir. 1999)). Fernandez’s conviction (for conspiring to commit murder-for-hire, and for using a firearm to commit murder in furtherance of that conspiracy) was secured principally on the testimony of his cousin and co-defendant Darge. Testifying pursuant to a cooperation agreement, Darge told the jury that members of the Minaya drug organization hired him to murder two of its drug suppliers (Cuellar and Flores) for $180,000; that he recruited his cousin Fernandez to help him with the murders for $40,000; and that he and Fernandez then shot and killed Cuellar and Flores. Order at 4.

Fernandez argued on appeal that Darge’s testimony was insufficient to sustain his conviction because it was uncorroborated. The Circuit rejected this argument, citing the aforementioned rule from Diaz and explaining that “any lack of corroboration [of Darge’s tale] ‘goes merely to the weight of the evidence, not to its sufficiency.’” Order at 5 (quoting United States v. Parker, 903 F.2d 91, 97 (2d Cir. 1990)). And because Darge’s testimony was “not incredible on its face, . . . we must defer to the jury’s assessment of his credibility.” Id.


— Yuanchung Lee

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Categories: credibility, sufficiency
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