Last month, lawyers for three drunk drivers were in Albany arguing that their clients were too drunk to murder, in the hope of getting their second-degree murder convictions reduced to manslaughter. It was one of the strangest defense strategies we've ever heard of, but yesterday, the court rejected that argument and upheld that you can't be excused from murder charges because you were "too drunk" to know what you were doing.
In all three cases—two happened on Long Island, the other on Staten Island—the drivers were drunk or under the influences of drugs while driving, which led to fatal crashes. They were all convicted of murder for showing a "depraved indifference" to human life. But their lawyers argued that they were incapable of showing depravity because they were drunk or high: "She was extremely intoxicated and she was entirely oblivious to the danger that she was creating," argued Erica Horwitz, the attorney for Taliyah Taylor. Taylor struck 41-year-old defense attorney Larry Simon while driving 90 MPH naked on a mix of alcohol, Ecstasy and pot without any headlights on.
Associate Judge Robert Smith gave the dissent, arguing that while the drivers were “unforgivably reckless” and unquestionably guilty of manslaughter and aggravated vehicular homicide, he does not believe they were in a state of mind capable of murder (ie, depraved indifference). But Jonathan Lippman, the chief judge of the Court of Appeals, wrote that all three of these circumstances were extraordinary: “Although intoxicated driving cases that present circumstances evincing a depraved indifference to human life are likely to be few and far between, we find that the evidence in each of these unusually egregious cases was legally sufficient to support the convictions.”