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Three convicted murderers are arguing on appeal that they were too drunk to be legally convicted for their DUI-related crimes.
Martin Heidgen, Taliyah Taylor, and Franklin McPherson were convicted of murder in three separate cases in New York. But each one claims that prosecutors failed to prove they acted with "depraved indifference to human life."
This question of criminal law is now before New York's highest court.
The Associated Press reports that the three defendants were responsible for deaths in 2005, 2006, and 2007. In each case, the drivers are arguing that their murder convictions should be overturned because of a lack of "depraved indifference."
Under New York law, a person can be convicted of second degree murder if:
The difference between murder and manslaughter in these cases is "depraved indifference," and all three defendants are arguing on appeal that they were far too intoxicated to even know what they were doing.
Depraved indifference is generally a callous disregard for human life, which can be displayed by a defendant's actions based on the circumstances.
According to the jury instructions for second degree murder in New York, a person with depraved indifference has:
Depraved indifference was also one of the factors considered by George Zimmerman's jury in determining whether he was guilty of murder in shooting Trayvon Martin.
Based on the level of intoxication in these cases, the defendants argue they were incapable of having this more twisted form of disregard for human life, and that the prosecution did not prove this element beyond a reasonable doubt.
Far from convinced, one New York prosecutor opined to the AP that there was "no possibility" the defendants weren't aware of the risk and acted anyway, "other people be damned."
New York's highest court, called the Court of Appeals, is expected to rule on this issue by November.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.