Court of Appeals of New York
60 N.Y.2d 270 (1983)
Register (defendant) and his friend, Duval, had been drinking heavily. The two men went to a bar, Register taking a loaded gun with him. After a few hours at the bar, an argument broke out between Duval and Willie Mitchell. Register took the gun out and shot at Mitchell but instead injured Lawrence Evans, who was trying to stop the fight. Register then came forward and shot Mitchell in the stomach. The bar patrons began to leave the bar, some trying to remove Mitchell and bring him to the hospital. At some point Marvin Lindsey, an acquaintance of Register, passed by. Without explanation, Register shot Lindsey, killing him. Register was charged with intentional murder, second-degree murder (also called depraved-mind murder), and two counts of first-degree assault. Register did not deny the shootings, but instead introduced evidence of his severe intoxication on the night of the events. Register asked the court to provide jury instructions on the effect of intoxication. The court did so when discussing the intentional murder and assault counts, but it refused to charge the jury on the intoxication defense in determining whether Register acted “under circumstances evincing a depraved indifference to human life” in causing Lindsey’s death. The court reasoned that the mens rea required for depraved-mind murder is recklessness, and the state penal law excludes evidence of intoxication as a defense to recklessness crimes, because a person who creates a risk, but is unaware of it simply because he is voluntarily intoxicated, is also acting recklessly. Register was acquitted of intentional murder, but convicted of depraved-mind murder. The appellate division affirmed the judgment, and Register appealed, arguing that voluntary intoxication is a valid defense to depraved-mind murder, because the crime contains an additional element of mental culpability in the phrase “circumstances evincing a depraved indifference to human life,” which may be canceled out by evidence of intoxication.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Simons, J.)
Dissent (Jasen, J.)
What to do next…
Unlock this case brief with a free (no-commitment) trial membership of Quimbee.
You’ll be in good company: Quimbee is one of the most widely used and trusted sites for law students, serving more than 97,000 law students since 2011. Some law schools—such as Yale, Vanderbilt, Berkeley, and the University of Illinois—even subscribe directly to Quimbee for all their law students. Read our student testimonials.
Learn more about Quimbee’s unique (and proven) approach to achieving great grades at law school.
Quimbee is a company hell-bent on one thing: helping you get an “A” in every course you take in law school, so you can graduate at the top of your class and get a high-paying law job. We’re not just a study aid for law students; we’re the study aid for law students. Read more about Quimbee.
Here's why 221,000 law students have relied on our case briefs:
- Written by law professors and practitioners, not other law students. 14,100 briefs, keyed to 189 casebooks. Top-notch customer support.
- The right amount of information, includes the facts, issues, rule of law, holding and reasoning, and any concurrences and dissents.
- Access in your classes, works on your mobile and tablet. Massive library of related video lessons and high quality multiple-choice questions.
- Easy to use, uniform format for every case brief. Written in plain English, not in legalese. Our briefs summarize and simplify; they don’t just repeat the court’s language.