The New York Criminal Law Blog

'Popeye' Slits Two Kids' Throats While High on PCP and Weed

In an attack reminiscent of the wave of "bath salt" attacks that occurred over this past summer, a man is now in custody after committing a horrific act while under the influence of illicit drugs. According to the Daily News, Osvaldo Rivera, 31, also known as Popeye, slit the throats of a six-year-old boy and his twelve-year-old sister while under the influence of marijuana laced with PCP. The younger child, Dominick Andujor, did not survive. His older sister, Amber Andujor, fled her attacker and summoned help.

The combination of drugs, known as "wet", can cause aggression and hallucinations, much like bath salts. Two weeks ago, a mother in Camden decapitated her two-year-old son and stabbed herself while under the influence of "wet".

These brutal attacks, as well as those brought on by bath salts, beg the question of culpability. If these attackers had the same hallucinations naturally, they would be confined in a mental institution. If they committed the same acts while sober, they'd face either life in jail or the death penalty. How much should intoxication matter?

In New Jersey, where the attack occurred, intoxication is addressed as a defense by statute and only applies when:

  • it negates an element of a crime
    • For example, murder requires premeditation. Someone on a PCP-induced violent spree arguably does not premeditate before acting. They could however be charged with a lesser crime, such as manslaughter.
  • it was involuntary
    • Had the offender not known that his marijuana was laced with PCP, there might be a viable defense of involuntary intoxication. In such a case, there would be no intent to ingest PCP and the offender would not be criminally liable for his actions.
  • it was pathological intoxication
    • This is the abnormal reaction defense. For example, someone is allergic to alcohol and drinks only one drink. Their allergy amplifies the effect of the single drink and clouds their mind to the level of temporary insanity.

Any of these three might be strategies chosen by a defense attorney when faced with a client that committed a violent act while under the influence of PCP. One does wonder if the "pathological intoxication" defense has ever actually succeeded in a case of someone being under the influence of PCP, bath salts, or some other powerful hallucinogen.

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