Legal hypothetical: administering drugs that incite murder

A recent episode of CSI featured a motel owner who was surreptitiously dosing the occupants of one room with an aerosolized blend of psychadelic drugs that reliably caused the person so dosed to commit murder. This happened several times over the course of the episode.

Presumably the hotel owner could be charged with murder under the felony murder rule. But what about the drug-addled killers? Could they conceivably be charged with murder? Or with anything at all?

Are CSI episodes supposedly based on real-life incidents, or are they entirely fictional? Did any such event (or anything like it) ever actually happen?

I hope that’s entirely fictional! I shudder to think what that could lead to in real life: Murder defendants claiming “The drugs made me do it!”: :eek: :frowning:

Murder requires an intent to kill. Assuming that this drug works to vitiate the dosed person’s actual will, there wouldn’t be any intent to kill; therefore no murder. This would apply to all intentional crimes.

In a world where the existence of a psychedelic drug that inevitably or almost always leads to a desire to kill is taken as given, I suppose felony murder could be charged against the poisoner, but I would expect that to be a very complicated argument. I’m not so sure that the level of proof required to establish felony murder wouldn’t end up supporting a conviction on plain old murder. We’d essentially be looking at the same situation as where person A pushes person B into person C, who falls to his death.

The way it’s set up, I would predict a dosed defendant to have a successful argument that they lacked the mens rea (basically, the intent to act) that is a vital element of most murder offenses.

IIRC, it’s also an element of most manslaughter offenses in that (among other things), you need to have willingly/intentionally engaged in the activity that led to death.

Are there any laws against killing another that are constructed with strict liability as a standard?

Generally, some kind of ‘I wasn’t in my right mind’ defense is applicable to murder. Seems like, depending on teh actual facts and particular statutes in the appropriate jurisdiction, there’s a good chance an insanity defense could fly. (Typically the defendent would have the burden of proving the insanity).
Though I’m pretty dubious there actually is any such ‘murder inducing’ drug.

I’m not a lawyer, and certainly not a criminal lawyer, but I’m not completely convinced that analysis is the best one. The ‘intent to kill’ generally applies when the person doing the act didn’t think it would kill the victim (Example: someone walks into a room and turns on the light switch. Unknown to them, victim was working on the circuit and gets electrocuted. The person didn’t mean to kill anyone. No mens rea)

But for all we know the dosed person was screaming “I’m going to kill you, you f----ing f—!”, right before pumping six bullets into the victim, checking for a pulse, reloading, firing six more bullets, and then yelling “Now I’ve killed you!”. Kind of hard to argue that the person wasn’t trying to kill the victim.

But you can argue the person wasn’t in their right mind.
It’s slightly different. For instance, generally, the burden of proof is on the defense to prove insanity, whereas the defense can just point out that the prosecution didn’t prove intent.

Like I mentioned, the discussion is premised on the assumption from the OP that there exists a drug that overrides an individual’s actual intent with respect to killing somebody - it causes you to commit murder. It’s not true that the intent to kill requirement “generally applies” in any particular circumstance; it’s a requirement for every conviction. One of our assumptions is that the impulse to kill arose because of the drug. If it arose because of the drug, the consumption of which wasn’t even intentional or knowing, it didn’t arise because of the defendant’s purpose. You can’t effectively intend an action which isn’t caused by you. If a person had the ability to plug me into a computer and send the impulses through my body that caused me to scream “I’m going to kill you,” it would be unthinkable to suggest that I intended that to happen because it happened.

There have been a number of cases where people have committed crimes due to drugs or illness. In the cases I recall, one was triggered by a tumour in the frontal lobe. Once the tumour was treated, the offending (internet child pornography) also stopped. When the offending restarted, a medical examination revealed a reoccurrence of the tumour, which was treated.
In the second, a man being treated for Parkinson’s disease also started offending against children. In this case the cause was the medication he was taking, which had been associated with a variety of risky behaviours (gambling, sexual risk taking) in some patients. A change in treatment regime stopped the behaviour.

In both those cases, the courts acquitted them - they were not responsible for their actions because of external influences: there is no doubt they committed criminal acts, but they could not be held responsible in any meaningful way.

Here is a fairly technical legal discussion of the OP’s issue. The defendant tried to invoke the defense of automatism, arguing that he wasn’t criminally liable for DUI because while he had voluntarily ingested a couple of drinks, he did not realize that they would interact so hard with his panic meds as to deprive him of conscious control of his actions.

The court rejected that argument, but it noted that that defense is available to someone whose ingestion of drugs is involuntary.