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State v. Utter

Court of Appeals of Washington
479 P.2d 946 (1971)



On the day of his son’s death, Appellant Utter (defendant) had been heavily drinking in his apartment. Witnesses saw the son enter Utter’s apartment and heard him cry out. The son came out and collapsed, having been stabbed in the chest. He told witnesses that his dad stabbed him. He died shortly afterwards. Utter was charged with murder in the second degree. He has no recollection of what happened with his son. During trial, Utter argued that his actions were the result of a conditioned response. He submitted expert testimony explaining that a conditioned response is an automatic response to a particular stimulus. Utter said that due to his training and time served in World War II, he was programmed to respond violently to people who unexpectedly approached him. The trial court rejected Utter’s defense of conditioned response, holding that it was the same as the defense of irresistible impulse, which Washington courts do not recognize. Accordingly, the trial court instructed the jury to disregard any evidence regarding conditioned response. The jury convicted Utter of manslaughter, and he appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Farris, J.)

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