According to a news report, a Pinal County woman is now facing a charge of negligent homicide in connection with the death of another woman this past weekend. A number of articles have surfaced attempting to detail the event, and here is what we’ve been able to piece together so far.
Police say that on Saturday night they received a 911 call from a women who told the dispatcher she had just shot someone who had stabbed her. When they arrived on the scene, no one answered, so deputies knocked down the front door, and claim that they began going through the residence searching for the alleged victim. Both were discovered in the dining room, with one woman shot, and the other kneeling over her. The woman who was shot was pronounced dead at the scene. This is when the story gets a bit confusing.
According to the deputies, they recovered a .357 Smith and Wesson revolver. (Remember Dirty Harry? This is “the most powerful handgun known to man.”). The officers say that the suspect (a) told them the other woman had been breaking into her house, then (b) said she was being beaten by the other woman, then (c) refused to answer questions. Another article on the case describes a written statement by one law enforcement official alleging that the alleged shooter was so intoxicated that she was difficult to understand, and needed assistance to walk.
We obviously don’t know how the case will play out, and what the facts actually are. But from a legal point of view, the case is interesting because of the charge that was ultimately filed against the woman. Negligent homicide is a class 4 felony, consisting of causing the death of another person with criminal negligence. We suppose that the woman could have been charged with manslaughter (recklessly causing death), which is a class 2 felony, but the lesser charge of negligent homicide was chosen instead. We also note that even if the alleged victim had not died, the suspect could (and likely would) have been charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, ordinarily a class 3 felony.
We don’t know for sure why the particular charge was chosen, and there may well be other facts that affected the issue in the case. But we would point out that voluntary intoxication does not constitute a defense in Arizona to the requisite state of mind for the commission of a particular criminal offense.
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