Is a drunk person committing murder when they kill behind the wheel? That’s the question that New York’s highest court will need to face as they consider overturning the murder convictions of three drunk, reckless drivers who killed others with their respective cars.
Martin Heidgen, Taliyah Taylor and Franklin McPherson argue that because they were so heavily intoxicated at the time, they could not have acted with the “depraved indifference to human life” that leads to a murder charge.
In each instance, the driver was speeding in the wrong lane after drinking. But their attorneys say that alcohol barred them from understanding what they were doing.
Nassau County Assistant District Attorney Maureen McCormick is not buying it: "I'm saying they wanted to go where they wanted to go, and other people be damned."
Heidgen claims he was lost when he headed the wrong way on Long Island's Meadowbrook State Parkway and hit a limousine. Two people were killed — including one 7-year-old — and five were injured.
But his attorney, Jillian Harrington, said, “We have no proof he realized he was going in the wrong direction.”
McPherson's attorney, Jonathan Edelstein, echoed similar sentiments, saying, "Nobody who's not oblivious will plow head-on into another vehicle at 60 miles per hour."
Taylor was not only drunk, but also high on ecstasy and marijuana when she barreled down the road at 80 mph without her headlights on. She was naked, claiming that God wanted her to drive without her clothing. She also made a number of other illogical statements after the incident.
While the drivers are not fighting vehicular manslaughter or other charges, they feel that murder does not apply because they had no intention of hurting anyone.
So the question is not of their decision-making skills, but one of malice. And it seems hard to prove that each of the deadly crashes was anything more than a tragic accident stemming from ill-brought choices.