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The statutory definition of depraved mind murder includes both a mental element, recklessly, and a voluntary act, engaging in conduct which creates a grave risk of death to another person. Recklessness refers to a defendant's conscious disregard of a substantial risk and the act proscribed, the risk creating conduct, is defined by the degree of danger presented. Depraved mind murder resembles manslaughter in the second degree, a reckless killing which includes the requirement that the defendant disregard a substantial risk, but the depraved mind murder statute requires in addition not only that the conduct which results in death present a grave risk of death but that it also occur under circumstances evincing a depraved indifference to human life.
In a barroom incident, defendant shot and killed one man and seriously injured two others. Defendant was convicted of murder in the second degree and two counts of assault in the first degree. On appeal, the defendant alleged that the evidence was insufficient to support the murder conviction and that the trial court erred in refusing to instruct the jury that it could consider intoxication evidence to negate an element of the crime of depraved mind murder. Defendant also assigned error in rulings during the examination and cross-examination of his expert witness, claiming that the court limited his right to develop psychiatric evidence on the effect of alcohol on his conduct.
Should the defendant’s conviction be reversed on the basis of the arguments proffered by the defendant?
The court affirmed defendant's convictions of murder in the second degree, in violation of N.Y. Penal Law § 125.25(2), and of two counts of assault in the first degree, in violation of N.Y. Penal Law § 120.10(1). Sufficient evidence supported defendant's murder conviction. The evidence showed that defendant, under circumstances evincing a depraved indifference to human life, recklessly engaged in conduct that created a grave risk of death to another person and thereby caused the death of the other person where defendant entered a crowded bar with a loaded gun and fired three times, killing someone. The trial court did not err in refusing to instruct the jury that it could consider intoxication evidence to negate an element of the crime of depraved-mind murder or in limiting the development of psychiatric evidence on the effect of alcohol on defendant's conduct where intoxication evidence was statutorily precluded from defeating recklessness. Although aggravating circumstances distinguished depraved-mind murder from intentional murder and manslaughter, defendant's conviction did not require proof of any additional element which intoxication evidence would negate.