Wednesday, October 9, 2013
From the New York Times. In part:
Juries convicted all three of second-degree murder after prosecutors argued successfully that they had shown a “depraved indifference to human life.” But those convictions were brought as a group before New York State’s highest court for review on Tuesday, where a panel of judges wrestled with a thorny legal question: Can people become so intoxicated that it is impossible for them to be in the state of mind the law defines as depraved indifference?
During more than an hour of intense questioning from judges, defense lawyers argued their clients were too drunk or high to understand what they were doing and were oblivious to the threat they posed to others. Prosecutors countered, often in emotional terms, that the three drivers had enough presence of mind to know they were endangering other drivers but did not care.
. . .
In a series of recent cases, culminating in the 2006 ruling People v. Feingold, the Court of Appeals has held that depraved indifference is a state of mind. Those rulings have given prosecutors the extra burden of proving that a defendant consciously and willingly showed “an utter disregard for the value of human life” when proving second-degree homicides, especially in drunken-driving cases.