Times Square is normally filled with pedestrians, especially during the noon hour in the summer. A driver who claims to have heard voices, and who may have been high on drugs, drove his car into Times Square crowd, killing one person injuring 22 others. The question being asked by police is not how the accident unfolded, but what motivated the driver to engage in such dangerous conduct. Was the incident the result of drunk driving or some other interference with the driver’s cognitive abilities?
The incident began when the driver allegedly heard voices telling him to hurt people. At first, police were concerned that the incident was a terror attack. After interviewing the driver, police now believe that the driver’s actions were intentional but not motivated by a terroristic intent. Police allege that the driver was impaired and out of control as he was being arrested. He was given a breath test at the police station, but he blew a 0.0 blood alcohol content level. The driver was given other tests which, according to police, may indicate that he was under the influence of one or more drugs that he ingested by smoking.
Police are now investigating the driver’s background. He was dishonorably discharged from the U. S. Navy for resisting arrest. A friend told reporters that the driver hadn’t been the same since he returned from active duty. The driver also has a history of psychiatric problems, including drug and alcohol abuse.
The incident had many witnesses, but the driver is still entitled to be presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In addition, under New York law, a defendant may be found not guilty by reason of insanity if he has been diagnosed with a relevant mental defect and, at the time of the incident was either unable to either appreciate the criminality of his conduct; or conform his conduct to the requirements of the law.
The outcome of this case is far from obvious, but the defendant’s mention of voices immediately raises the possibility that he was suffering from schizophrenia or a similar mental disease and that he may be found innocent by reason of insanity. Anyone with questions about the insanity defense in New York may wish to consult a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney for an assessment of the evidence, the law that governs the case and the likelihood of obtaining an acquittal based on the defendant’s mental condition.
Source: NBC New York, “Suspect in Deadly Times Square Crash Said Voices Told Him to Hurt People, Sources Say,” Jonathan Dienst, Marc Santia and Tom Winter, May 18, 2017