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People v. Low

Supreme Court of Colorado
732 P.2d 622 (1987)


Facts

Robert Low (defendant) went on a hunting trip with a group of men, including A.D. McCowan. Low drove all night to meet the men. As the group approached the campsite, Low became anxious and paranoid. Upon arriving at the campsite, Low believed that he was dead and in hell. Low went to his truck to retrieve a rifle and bullets. The rest of the group realized that something was wrong and took the rifle, but Low unbuckled his hunting knife and stabbed A.D., while also trying to stab himself. Low returned to his truck for a can of kerosene, which he emptied on the floor of his own tent and ignited before falling asleep outside. Upon waking, Low was confused about what had happened. Low was subsequently charged with first-degree assault. At trial, the evidence established that Low had developed a cough-drop habit. On the trip, Low had not slept and had consumed approximately 120 cough drops within a 24-hour period. Before the assault, Low had never felt any intoxicating effects from the cough drops. A psychiatrist concluded that, because of the amount of cough drops that were ingested, Low had suffered from toxic psychosis at the time of the attack and was incapable of forming the specific intent to commit first-degree assault. Low pleaded not guilty, waiving the affirmative defenses of insanity and impaired mental condition but asserting the affirmative defense of involuntary intoxication. The trial judge found that Low had committed the requisite acts for an assault but did not have the requisite mens rea to be convicted. In making the acquittal determination, the trial court did not make an explicit finding of intoxication but instead based its decision on Low’s psychiatric testimony. The state appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Erickson, J.)

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