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Montana v. Egelhoff: Due Process and the Right of the Accused to Present Evidence - Essay Example

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This paper seeks to critically analyze the decision of the Supreme Court in the seminal case of Montana v. Egelhoff and its implications of the legal landscape covering the right of the accused to present evidence…
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Montana v. Egelhoff: Due Process and the Right of the Accused to Present Evidence
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Download file to see previous pages This paper argues that the decision heralds a marked shift in the jurisprudence pertaining to the rights of the accused and may lead to a relaxation of the over-all principle of due process, and second, the decision may also have impacts on judicial appreciation of voluntary intoxication as a factor or consideration in criminal proceedings.This paper begins by giving a brief background of the case itself, including its factual incidents, and the respective decisions of the Montana Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court. After which, it will explore the principle under scrutiny: the right of the accused to present evidence on his behalf and how it has evolved and crystallized over the years. Third, the paper will argue on the implications of the US Supreme Court decision on this principle. Fourth, the paper will reflect on voluntary intoxication and how courts have treated this factor in criminal proceedings. On July 12, 1992, the accused James Allen Egelhoff and the victims, Roberta Pavola and John Christianson, who the accused had just struck a friendship with earlier, went to a party in Troy, Montana, where they consumed a large amount of alcohol. After the party, they still went to some bars to drink even further. They left the bars in Christianson’s station wagon, with Egelhoff in the back seat and the two men in the front seat with Christianson driving. There were testimonies from drivers on the highway stating that they saw said vehicle moving erratically, weaving between the road and a side ditch. After midnight, police officers, responding to calls, found the car in a ditch, with Christianson and Pavola dead from gunshot wounds to the head. Egelhoff, meanwhile, was alive and in the backseat, and he was obviously intoxicated and screaming obscenities. According to the Detective, Detective Gassett, Egelhoff was acting wildly and erratically, cursing profusely and even kicking a camera out of the hand of a policeman. After testing him for alcohol ingestion, he registered a .36 blood alcohol content (BAC). There also was gunshot residue in his hands. Egelhoff, when put on the witness stand, stated that he could not remember anything after leaving the party, and had no recollection of the act of firing the gun and killing his companions. During trial, he asserted as follows: Because I was found unconscious and suffering from intoxication measured at .36 one hour after being brought to the hospital, my level of intoxication precluded me from having driven the car or undertaking the physical tasks necessary to have done what the prosecution claimed I had done. In chief, his defense was that he could not have committed Deliberate Homicide, the crime for which he was charged, because he was at the time suffering from an alcohol-induced blackout. This was corroborated by the doctor who examined Egelhoff at the hospital. However, during the trial, the trial court judge asked the jury to take note of Montana Code 45-3-203, stating as follows: A person who is in an intoxicated condition is criminally responsible for his conduct and an intoxicated condition is not a defense to any offense and may not be taken into consideration in determining the existence of a mental state which is an element of the offense, unless the Defendant proves that he did not know that it was an intoxicating substance when he consumed the substance causing the condition. Egelhoff appealed to the Montana Supreme Court, arguing that the elements of the crime of deliberate homicide required the State to prove that he acted “knowingly” and “purposely” and that this burden was not fully dispensed with when the state kept evidence of intoxication ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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