A man accused of intentionally causing a crash that killed a New York state trooper has blamed the incident on a "time warp."
Almond Upton, 60, of Melrose, Florida, allegedly hit two cars on Interstate 81 near Binghamton, New York, before crossing into the right shoulder and hitting Trooper Christopher G. Skinner, killing him instantly. According to The Post-Standard, Upton claims he was on his way to visit his mother in Connecticut when a "time warp (or) something" transported him to Binghamton.
Is Upton's "time warp" a plausible legal defense?
Killing a Trooper Is a Capital Crime
Upton was charged with first-degree murder for Skinner's death. In New York and many other states, intentionally killing a police or other peace officer while on duty is an aggravating factor which can qualify a defendant for the highest form of punishment.
Since Upton is accused of killing a state trooper -- a peace officer -- while he was on duty, the Florida man is theoretically eligible for the death penalty.
However, since a 2004 New York Court of Appeals case found that capital punishment violated New York's constitution, the death penalty has not been imposed in the state. Still, the death penalty remains on the books.
Let's Not Do the Time Warp Again
State police say that Upton admitted to hitting Skinner intentionally with his truck. The "time warp" defense came shortly after his arraignment for first-degree murder on Thursday, reports The Post-Standard.
One of the various defenses to first-degree murder in New York is mental disease or defect. Police allegedly found Upton naked in the woods after the fatal crash, giving some credence to the theory that Upton may not have been "all there" at the time.
A defense attorney may argue that the "time warp" was Upton's only way of describing a momentary psychotic episode which might qualify for an insanity defense. New York puts the burden on the defendant to prove that he or she:
- Did not appreciate the criminality of his or her conduct; or
- Could not conform his or her conduct to the law.
If Upton claims he was zapped into a "time warp," his attorney may argue that he couldn't appreciate what exactly he was doing. It may be up to a jury to decide if Upton really believes in time warps.
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