29 September 2003

Death Cases Last Week:

(1) Involuntary Intoxication:
The involuntary intoxication defense is a rarity in Virginia and extremely hard to prove, said William Hassan, a Fairfax lawyer who successfully used the defense several years ago.

It stems from a 1923 Virginia Supreme Court ruling that says someone can be considered involuntarily intoxicated if impaired by trickery or physician error.
I've put this defense on before in a case involving Halcion and must say that it is extremely hard to convince a judge that your client's gruesome act should be excused by the fact that he took pills prescribed by his doctor. Still, I'll never use Halcion or Xanax. BTW the case is Johnson v. Commonwealth, 135 Va. 524, 115 S.E. 673, Va. (1923).

(2) Buckley's comment on Governor Romney's attempt to return the death penalty to Massachusetts.

(3) Nebraska refuses a DNA test to see if a man convicted of murder might be innocent.

(4) Arizona is trying to get the federal supreme court to overturn the 9th Circuit's decision that a large number of death penalty convictions are unconstitutional.

(5) Japanese disquiet over the treatment over youthful murderers.

(6) Kill someone for Gotti get 10 years in prison.

(7) An expert testifies for free in the NC Peterson case.

(8) In the Eric Rudolph case the Defense wants the names of 566 people interviewed by the FBI.

(9) In Texas Durst's attorneys are saying the murder was self defense/accident and that the dismemberment was done in a panic.

(10) The story of the murders at the Appalachian School of Law.

(11) A 6 month trip to the hospital and then trial. At least that's what happened the last two times this guy was declared incompetent.

(12) Kill a five year old - get killed.

(13) 9 Hell's Angels convicted of "conspiracy to commit murder, drug trafficking and gangsterism."

(14) NC killed a man.

(15) Prosecutors charge a minor with felony homicide for the sale of methadone to a man who died. I saw one of these cases being tried in good ole' conservative Chesterfield County and the jury rejected it. It seems to me that to show the taking of the drug as part of the res gestae of the selling of the drug is a difficult endeavor. It's also difficult to draw a straight line between the drug use and death because the drug use is usually combined with other intoxicants (primarily alcohol) which amplify the effects and a honest expert will not be able to point to the drug as the sole cause.

(16) Homicide by Negligence? In Chicago prosecutors are charging club owners with manslaughter for not keeping their building up to code. More specifically, they seem to be charged with manslaughter because a staircase is too narrow and a mob of people "stampeded" down it crushing each other. I don't know how wide the staircase was or how wide it was supposed to be but you have to wonder if it really would have made all that much difference as a rioting mob tried to roll over itself in a panic to get to the doors.

Meanwhile, the Guardian asks if a manslaughter charge is appropriate in cases where accident has clearly occurred.

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