Second Degree Murder Depraved Mind Provision in New York

In People v. Register (60 NY2d 270, 457 NE2d 704, 469 NYS2d 599 [1983], the Court considered the meaning of the term "depraved indifference to human life" with respect to the use of that term in the "depraved mind murder" provision of the second-degree murder statute. (Penal Law 125.25 [2].) The Court held that the term "depraved indifference to human life" did not refer either to the mental state required for the crime or the acts constituting it. The Court held that if the term referred to "an element of the crime at all, it is not an element in the traditional sense but rather a definition of the factual setting in which the risk creating conduct must occur." (60 NY2d at 276.) Continuing, the Court held, evidence of a defendant's intoxication could not negative such a factual setting since "depraved indifference to human life" referred to "objective circumstances which are not subject to being negatived by evidence of defendant's intoxication."