Court Rules You Cannot Use Being Drunk As A Defense To Killing Your Wife And Her Suspected Lover

The accused in this criminal case was charged with homicide after he returned home from work in January 1990 to find his wife having a drink with her cousin Hernandez. Rios, who had himself been drinking, suspected his wife was having an affair with Hernandez. After an argument, Rios shot and killed his wife and Hernandez; a stray bullet went through the wall of their trailer home and killed his son. Rios was found guilty of three counts of first degree murder and gun use. On appeal he challenged in part the voluntary intoxication instructions given.

On appeal, the California Appeals Court denied the defendant’s request to be set free.  They found that the  trial court gave the standard well accepted jury instructions which limited the jury’s use of evidence of intoxication to determining whether Rios intended to kill, or premeditated/deliberated the killings. Rios claimed his intoxication was relevant to whether he acted in the heat of passion or held a subjective belief there was imminent danger justifying the use of deadly force. At the time of Rios’ 2011 trial, former Penal Code section 22, subdivision (b), allowed admission of evidence of voluntary intoxication to determine whether the defendant harbored express malice aforethought. “By referring to ‘intent to kill’ rather than express malice or its legal equivalent (‘intent to unlawfully kill’)” the instruction failed to inform the jury it could use evidence of intoxication to determine whether Rios harbored express malice, i.e., the intent to “unlawfully” kill. However, the error was harmless because the jury found premeditation and deliberation, which means it rejected a heat of passion defense.  Although this case was not heard in Long Beach, it is generally understood that these types of defenses are hit and miss when it comes to a jury and its willingness to acquit a suspected murderer.

One Response to Court Rules You Cannot Use Being Drunk As A Defense To Killing Your Wife And Her Suspected Lover

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