State v. Utter
COA WA - 1971
- D was a WWII vet turned alcoholic. After drinking heavily one day, D fatally stabbed his son.
- People heard son scream for his dad to stop, and then as the son died, he said that his dad killed him.
- D only remembered sitting down to drink; his next memory is being in prison.
- D was charged with second degree murder. D introduced evidence at trial about "conditioned response." D contended that he was in an automatic (unconscious) state at the time. He involuntarily reacts violently when people come up behind him unexpectedly.
- The trial court ruled that conditioned response was not a defense in WA, so the jury should disregard all testimony about it.
- Jury convicted D of manslaughter.
- Trial court found D guilty of manslaughter.
- WA COA affirmed, D guilty of manslaughter.
- Within the definition of homicide, what kind of act is required for a D to be found guilty?
- Within the definition of homicide, an act must be a willed movement, not committed while unconscious. There must be an exercise of will.
- When the state of unconsciousness is voluntarily induced using drugs or alcohol, then the defense falls short of being a complete defense.
- D's theory should have been given to the jury if there was sufficient evidence to support it; however, there is not sufficient evidence in this case.
- There is no evidence from which the jury could infer what actually happened in the room.