Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Bad Cases Make Bad Laws: NYS Ct of Appeals Sustains the Martin Heigden Verdict

It was brought to my attention that one of my previous posts, where I predicted the Martin Heigden verdict convicting him of Murder (depraved indifference) would be overturned, in fact was NOT overturned. I was wrong about justice being done in the case. I am late acknowledging it but I did want to up date the information.

 The decision in my opinion is a poor one, that further muddies already murky waters. That it was a split decision and one in which the majority cautions should be limited to circumstances such as the ones here, further shows how bad this decision really is. Nonetheless, Nassau DA Rice prevailed.

The majority decision is, as the dissent points, out absolutely devoid of the facts as presented at trial. To say Heigden was able to discern where he was or that he was in effect playing chicken with oncoming autos, is just not in keeping with science or even the DA's theory of the case at trial (Heigden was extremely intoxicated, driving on the wrong side of the road and ultimately killed a flower girl [decapitated her] and a limo driver coming from a wedding. The case was gruesome). The DA usually argues that drunks drive toward light and that driving toward the light is in part proof of their intoxication. While that fact does not lead to a failure to have requisite intent in and of itself, and thus does not clear them of the charges of DWI, the way DA's argue the matter in court is that the "condition" of driving toward the lights is not a decision but is actual proof of intoxication. Here however the majority opinion is that in his drunken stupor Heigden was actually able to figure out who and which car he would take on. In other words, they ignore the fact that he would naturally drive toward a bright light and use the fact that Heigden did drive toward oncoming lights as proof of a voluntary act, as opposed to it being an involuntary response to being intoxicated. That was not the way the DA argued those facts at trial.

As I explained in the original piece, the best way to explain a depraved indifference intent as opposed to not competent to form the requisite intent based on intoxication is the following comparison: If a person throws a 16lbs. bowling ball out of a tenth floor window onto a crowded sidewalk and kills someone, but couldn't care who, that is depraved indifference. If that same guy purposely throws the ball out the same window, but thinks he is in a bowling alley and that the people below were pins, that person does not have the requisite intent to commit depraved indifference murder. The majority used supposition against obvious fact to reach a decision it liked, but one that is unsupported by the facts or the science of DWI.

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