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Brief Fact Summary. Newton (D) was convicted of manslaughter for the murder of a police officer who was shot in a struggle with D. D testified that he was unconscious during the interval, however the trial judge failed to instruct the jury on the subject of unconsciousness as a defense to a charge of criminal homicide.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Prejudicial error exists where a judge refuses a requested jury instruction where evidence of involuntary unconsciousness has been produced in a homicide prosecution and would act as a complete defense if found to have existed.
Issue. Did the trial court err in failing to instruct the jury on the subject of unconsciousness as a defense to a charge of criminal homicide?
The trial court erred in failing to instruct the jury on the subject of unconsciousness, as involuntary unconsciousness is a complete defense to a charge of criminal homicide and evidence of such involuntary confidence has been produced.
Unconsciousness need not rise to the level of coma or inability to walk or perform manual movements; it can exist where the subject physically acts but is not, at the time, conscious of acting.View Full Point of Law