Suicidal man who killed motorist in head-on collision to keep murder conviction

A man who drove into oncoming traffic as part of a suicide attempt, killing another motorist, has failed to convince the Court of Appeals of Indiana to overturn his murder conviction.

After getting into an argument with his girlfriend in September 2018, Cody Albert smoked a cigarette, texted his girlfriend an apology message and wrote a suicide note. He then drove his vehicle westbound toward Greencastle in the eastbound lanes of U.S. 40  at a high rate of speed before crashing head-on into another vehicle, killing the driver on impact.

Albert, who was removed from his own vehicle and transported to a hospital, consented to a blood draw and admitted that THC would be present because he had smoked marijuana. He also admitted to driving on the wrong side of the road because he was trying to commit suicide.

Albert was charged with murder and Level 5 felony causing death while operating a vehicle with a schedule I or II controlled substance. He initially asserted an insanity defense but withdrew it prior to trial, where he offered evidence regarding his mental health history. However, the Hendricks Circuit Court ruled that information was irrelevant and thus inadmissible.

Albert tendered a final instruction on reckless homicide and the state tendered a non-pattern instruction on inferring intent, which said the intent to kill may be inferred from the nature of the attack and the deliberate use of a deadly weapon in a manner likely to cause death or serious bodily injury. The trial court accepted both instructions over objections.

The jury ultimately found Albert guilty as charged and the trial court sentenced him to an aggregate of 55 years in prison.

The Court of Appeals affirmed Wednesday in Cody Albert v. State of Indiana, 21A-CR-2617, finding first that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in instructing the jury regarding intent.

Specifically, it noted that unlike the instruction in McDowell v. State, 885 N.E.2d 1260 (Ind. 2008), the challenged instruction in Albert’s case did not authorize a conviction based merely on the result of the actor’s use of a deadly weapon.

“Albert’s state of mind was the focus of this case,” Judge Terry Crone wrote. “We conclude that the challenged instruction was a proper statement of the law, it did not lessen the State’s burden of proof, and it did not mislead the jury.”

 Nor did the trial court abuse its discretion by excluding evidence regarding Albert’s mental health history, the COA continued. The appellate panel was unconvinced that Albert’s mental health history going back five years was relevant to determining whether he intended to kill the victim.

“Rather, his mental health history was appropriately offered and considered as a mitigating factor for sentencing purposes,” Crone wrote. “We conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in excluding evidence of Albert’s history of mental health challenges.”

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