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People v. Newton

California District Court of Appeal
87 Cal. Rptr. 394 (1970)


Police officers stopped a vehicle driven by Huey P. Newton (defendant) and ordered him to get out. There was conflicting evidence that Newton drew a gun and in the struggle for its possession by Officer Frey, the gun fired and wounded another police officer, Heanes. The struggle continued while Heanes shot at Newton’s midsection. At some point, Newton wrestled the gun away and fired several shots at Frey, killing him. Newton then ran away and later appeared at a hospital emergency room seeking treatment for a gunshot wound. Newton was charged with voluntary manslaughter. At his trial, Newton testified that he had not carried a gun. According to Newton, the struggle began when Officer Frey struck him for protesting the arrest. As Newton stumbled backwards, Frey drew his revolver. Newton testified that he then felt a “sensation like…boiling hot soup had been spilled” on his stomach, heard an “explosion,” and then a “volley of shots.” Newton testified that he remembered “crawling…a moving sensation,” but did not recall how he got to the hospital. Newton stated that he was “unconscious or semiconscious” during this time leading to his appearance at the hospital and only “regained consciousness” at a different hospital. The defense called Dr. Bernard Diamond as an expert who testified that Newton’s recollections were “compatible” with the gunshot he had received. Diamond testified that it was common for a person to go into a reflex shock condition causing loss of consciousness for short periods of time following a gunshot wound that penetrates the abdominal cavity. The trial judge refused to instruct the jury on the subject of unconsciousness as a defense to Newton’s offense. Newton was found guilty and he appealed.

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Holding and Reasoning (Rattigan, J.)

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