Intent is something that carries a lot of weight in a court of law. In some instances, the laws of a given state may allow the prosecution to bring charges based on claims that alleged actions of defendants, such as driving under the influence, reflect intentional indifference for the safety of others, which merits harsher punishment.
In the DUI cases of three individuals in New York, such claims were part and parcel of the prosecution's efforts. In each instance, the defendants were convicted of murder in the deaths of victims of resulting accidents. Prosecutors contended they had all acted with "depraved indifference to human life."
In what some legal experts might call a creative appeal, and others would call a vigorous defense, attorneys for the three defendants are seeking to have the murder convictions overturned. Their argument is that their clients were too impaired to know the risk they posed, so prosecutors failed to prove depraved indifference.
The driver in one case is serving a prison term of 19 years to life. Two people were killed and five were injured when he drove the wrong way on a divided parkway and collided with the vehicle carrying the victims. During his appeal, the defense asked how the driver could be considered indifferent when there's no proof he even knew he was in the wrong lane.
In another case, the convicted driver never braked before a crash that killed another driver. The defense noted in the appeal that the defendant was doing 60, and argued that since he never attempted to stop, it shows "he was oblivious." That defendant is serving 25 to life for his conviction.
In the last case, a woman is sentenced to 22 years to life for a pedestrian's death. She apparently had taken drugs and drunk beer before getting behind the wheel of a car naked. Her attorney argued that her nakedness and her statements that she was driving naked because God told her to, show she was irrational at the time.
The defendants were all convicted of lesser charges in addition to murder. Those convictions are not being contested. Rulings on the appeals are expected next month.
Source: HuffingtonPost.com, "Drunk Drivers Argue They Were Too Intoxicated To Realize Threat They Posed," Michael Virtanen, Oct. 8, 2013