NY Supreme Court Throws Out "Too Intoxicated" Murder Defense


Three drivers' cases hinged on the court's decision if being too intoxicated to know the danger they posed was a legitimate defense, and all three were convicted after a state supreme court ruling.

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Three drivers who caused deadly crashes were convicted in separate cases of murder when their defense of being too drunk to know they posed a danger was rejected by New York's Supreme Court.
Martin Heidgen, 32, Taliyah Taylor, 31, and Franklin McPherson, 27, were each convicted on murder charges in different cases in which they each were driving too fast in the wrong lane while under the influence.
In 2005, Heidgen drove his pickup truck for miles going against traffic on the Meadowbrook Parkway while intoxicated, and hit a limousine, killing the driver, Stanley Rabinowitz, and 7-year-old passenger Katie Flynn.  Five others were also injured in the accident.
One year later, Taylor was arrested after speeding on Staten island's Forest Avenue and hitting and killing a pedestrian, Larry Simon. Officials reported that Taylor's blood tests showed traces of ecstasy, marijuana, and alcohol.  McPherson was arrested in 2007 after driving the wrong way on a parkway while drunk and killing another driver, Leslie Burgess.  
"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," wrote Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, according to ABC News.
In the case of Heidgen, the jury quickly concluded that though he was drunk, he realized the risk in driving for miles going in the wrong direction.
"One who engages in what amounts to a high-speed game of chicken, with complete disregard for the value of the lives that are thereby endangered, is undoubtedly an individual whose culpability is the equivalent of an intentional murderer," Lippman wrote.
Heidgen is serving 19 years to life, Taylor is serving 22 years to life, and McPherson was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
Heidgen's attorney, Jillian Harrington, upholds that the decision is a step backward from previous law, and is considering taking it to federal court.
"He was convicted of the wrong crime. ... We intend to continue to fight this conviction," she said.
[Source: ABC News]