New York Co-conspirator Exception in a Felony Murder Case

In People v. Ryan (263 NY 298, 189 NE 225 [1934]), a grocery store owner was shot to death in a failed robbery attempt. The two robbers who went to the store afterwards admitted to fellow conspirator Ryan and another conspirator that they shot the grocer in furtherance of the robbery attempt. Proof of that declaration was admitted against Ryan under the coconspirator exception to show that he was guilty of felony murder, i.e, to show that the killing was in furtherance of the attempted robbery. But, said the Court: "Declarations made by one conspirator in the prosecution of the enterprise are evidence against all, but they must be made in furtherance of the enterprise and while the enterprise is pending. Narration of the past facts after the enterprise has come to an end by success or failure is not admissible in evidence against the others. (People v. Davis 56 NY 95, 2 CowCr 39; Logan v. United States, 144 US 263, 12 SCt 617, 36 LEd 429.) Here the statements were not made in furtherance of the common enterprise. That had come to an end by failure. They were merely part of explanation given for the failure. The conspirators in making the statements were certainly not acting as agents in behalf of their fellows when they made this explanation to them. It follows that the reception of this narration as evidence binding upon the defendants who had no personal knowledge of the facts is erroneous. It has no more logical probative force against them than any other hearsay testimony." (Ryan at 305 see also People v. Vaccaro, 288 NY 170, 42 NE2d 472 [1942]; People v. Davis, 56 NY 95, 102-03, 2 CowCr 39 [1874] ["(a) mere relation of something already done for the accomplishment of the object of the conspirators is not competent evidence against the others"].)