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Is ‘blackout drunk’ a defense for the Lake City shooting?

The alleged gunman from Seattle’s Lake City shooting reportedly told police that he was blackout drunk and did not remember the incident. It may play a factor in the shooter’s defense as he heads to court.

Former Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna says that a murder is a crime of intent. Convictions generally rely on proving the defendant planned and intended to kill. In this case, court documents state that the suspect told police he was blackout drunk over the afternoon, and did not remember the shooting. He last remembered buying alcohol and playing video games, before becoming aware in the hospital.

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“So the burden is on the prosecutor to prove specific intent,” McKenna told KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross. “In this case, where someone is pleading intoxication as the defense, they have a burden as well … the burden is on the defendant to prove that he lacked the necessary intent to commit murder. We can contrast that to the crime of manslaughter. Intoxication is never a defense to involuntary manslaughter, or to rape, or battery, certain other crimes which are crimes of general intent.”

In short, intoxication might not play as much of a factor in such a case. The prosecution still has to prove intent. The defendant would have to prove they were too drunk to form intent.

Tad Michael Norman is being held with no bail on five charges — two for murder in the first degree, and three for attempted murder in the first degree. He was arrested after a shooting spree through Lake City.

The shooter fired upon a woman in a truck on Sand Point Way; then a woman in a car, striking her. He then shot at a bus, hitting the driver who was able to turn around and get his passengers to safety. The shooter reportedly then shot a driver of a Prius — killing him — and drove off in the car. After a short drive, he crashed into another car and killed the driver.

Court documents state that Norman told police he was blackout drunk, and did not even remember the crimes he is accused of.

“The defendant’s claim that he can’t remember is not a defense,” McKenna said.There is a statute that says that ‘no act committed by a person while in a state of voluntary intoxication shall be deemed less criminal by reason of his or her condition.'”

Intoxication can be taken into account when determining mental state. That’s about it.

So was he so drunk that he couldn’t form the intent for premeditated murder and then carry it out? You know the defendant’s going to come in and argue that’s the case,” McKenna said. “But weighing against that would be evidence like the description from the bus driver that it sure looked like he knew what he was doing. He wasn’t just wandering around, you know, staggering around, waving his gun in the air. He was taking aim. And that’s going to work against the defendant’s claim that he couldn’t form the specific intent required to convict him of murder.”

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