COA says attempted murder is not an exception to voluntary intoxication statute

September 28, 2016

The Indiana Court of Appeals found Wednesday that a man cannot have his attempted murder charge overturned because he was drunk at the time of the incident, writing that voluntary intoxication does not negate the specific intent to kill requirement of an attempted murder charge.

In January 2015, John Thomas became engaged in a verbal altercation with Craig Robinson and a physical altercation with Bobby Vinson, the adult son of Robinson’s girlfriend, Damita Jaffe.  Thomas was intoxicated during the altercations.

After the situation had diffused and Thomas had left the scene, the trio then saw Thomas walking toward Jaffe’s house and firing a shotgun, hitting Jaffe in the face with the pellets, which also grazed her daughter, Anna Vinson. Thomas was later arrested, charged in Vigo Superior Court and convicted of attempted murder of Bobby Vinson, attempted aggravated battery against Jaffe, attempted battery with a deadly weapon against Anna Vinson and criminal recklessness against Robinson.

Thomas appealed his attempted murder conviction, arguing that he was too intoxicated to have a specific intent to kill Bobby Vinson. The Vigo Superior Court had instructed the jury not to consider his level of intoxication when considering his attempted murder charge, an instruction Thomas said constituted a fundamental error.

Although Thomas conceded that voluntary intoxication does satisfy the general intent to commit an offense, he also argued that in Indiana, attempted murder charges must be proven by a specific intent to kill. Instructing the jury not to consider his intoxication in regard to the attempted murder charge deprived him of his right to a fair trial, he said.

But the Indiana Court of appeals disagreed in its Wednesday opinion, finding that the jury instruction was a correct statement of the law.

Indiana code expressly states that voluntary intoxication is not a defense to a prosecution for an offense, the appellate court wrote. Further, the court said there were at least two cases in Indiana that touch on the fact that voluntary intoxication is not a defense, but no cases that address whether the voluntary intoxication statute applies to attempted murder.

Accepting Thomas’ argument on appeal would essentially be the same as carving out an exception to the voluntary intoxication statute for attempted murder, the court said.

“Given that the Indiana legislature has not expressly identified attempted murder as an exception to the law negating voluntary intoxication as a defense, and our Supreme Court has not expressed an indication that any such exception exists, we decline Thomas’ invitation to create one,” the Court of Appeals wrote.

The case is John W. Thomas v. State of Indiana, 84A01-1602-CR-235.


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