Thursday, November 09, 2006

AD3: intoxication can negate "depraved indifference" mental state

People v Coon, 2006 NY Slip Op 07925 [3d Dept 2006] [available here]

Breaking with its prior precedent, the Court of Appeals recently held that "depraved indifference" is a culpable mental state. (See People v Feingold, 2006 NY Slip Op 05233 [previous post here].) In a decision handed down last week, the Third Department held that a necessary implication of the Court of Appeals' holding in Feingold is that intoxication can render a defendant incapable of forming the "depraved indifference" mens rea, and a defendant can now claim intoxication as a partial defense to crimes having "depraved indifference" as the culpable mental state. From the Third Department's decision:

After a nonjury trial, County Court's verdict included findings that defendant failed to prove the defense of mental disease or defect by a preponderance of the evidence, but that because of his voluntary use of crack cocaine, he suffered an atypical idiopathic reaction to the substance such that, at the time of the attack, he was experiencing cocaine intoxication delirium. As a result, County Court found that defendant was unable to form any specific criminal intent necessary to support either the intentional assault or criminal possession of a weapon charges. County Court also found that defendant's actions were reckless and that since voluntary intoxication does not negate recklessness, defendant was guilty of depraved indifference assault. [...]

[A]s defendant was too intoxicated to form a specific criminal intent, he also would be incapable of possessing the culpable mental state necessary to prove depraved indifference.

(Coon, 2006 NY Slip Op 07925.)

The Court also held that, given the nature of the assault (essentially a one-on-one stabbing), the evidence was insufficient to "establish [the] wanton cruelty, brutality or callousness" required for depraved indifference. (Id. at __.)

New decisions from the Fourth Department November 17, 2006.