Is drunkenness a defense?
Posted in the Chicago Ridge Forum
#1 Sep 27, 2007
Is drunkenness a defense?
September 27, 2007
BY KIM JANSSEN Staff writer
An Evergreen Park man - who shot a buddy to death but told police he didn't know the man - drank the equivalent of at least 17 beers when he pulled the trigger, an expert witness claimed in court Wednesday.
Russell Ozminkowski, 47, told police he did not know Lawrence Edgeworth and mistook him for an intruder when he shot him after a late-night drinking session in August 2005 at Ozminkowski's home in the 9000 block of Utica Avenue.
The pair were old friends, and Edgeworth, 42, had played a key role in Ozminkowski's wedding, Edgeworth's family said.
But Wednesday at the Cook County courthouse in Bridgeview, Dr. Christopher Long said Ozminkowski, an alcoholic, was so drunk when he was interviewed by police two hours after the shooting that he could have genuinely believed Edgeworth was an intruder.
"An average person who had consumed that amount of alcohol would have been comatose or even dead, but he had built up a tolerance," Long testified. "He should not have been interviewed at that time - he should have been taken to the hospital immediately for treatment."
Long is an unusual defense witness. He is a professor at St. Louis University who until recently was in charge of toxicology services for the Illinois State Police. He has appeared in court more than 100 times for the prosecution in alcohol- and drug-related cases.
But Ozminkowski's attorney, Michael Ettinger, hopes Long will convince a jury that Ozminkowski did not mean to kill his pal and should be acquitted of first-degree murder.
"I'm saying (Ozminkowski's) guilty of a crime, but that crime is not first-degree murder," he said.
Assistant State's Attorney Mike Deno wants Circuit Judge David Sterba to prevent Long from testifying, arguing that drunkenness is not a legitimate defense for killing someone.
Long testified that he watched video of a police interview in which Ozminkowski confesses to the killing, noting that Ozminkowski was "clearly fatigued" and "unnaturally still for a man in his circumstances."
He said test results show Ozminkowski had a blood-alcohol level of 0.346 - more than four times Illinois' legal limit for driving - and Little Company of Mary Hospital records showing he was confused when he was admitted after his confession are further evidence Ozminkowski's "brain was not working properly" at the time of the crime and the confession.
Severely drunken people "are emotionally unstable and make decisions based on emotion," he said, adding they are especially "subject to influence."
Long agreed with Ettinger's suggestion that a drunken Ozminkowski could have misinterpreted Edgeworth's presence in his home when he awoke with a start, saying, "It is a common experience for a person who has been drinking to wake up and not remember what happened the night before."
After Wednesday's hearing, Edgeworth's cousin, Marge Edgeworth, said she did not believe Ozminkowski's excuse.
"How can he not have known (it was Edgeworth)?" she said. "They knew each other forever - he knew that (Edgeworth) was in his house."
Sterba is scheduled to rule on Long's testimony on Oct. 19, when a trial date should also be set.
#2 Sep 30, 2007
This is my excuse for a lot of things. Haven't we all used it from time to time?
#3 Mar 7, 2008
its never an excuse
#4 Mar 5, 2009
It is an exuse when the person who was shot was going through russell,things and did not say why
#5 Mar 5, 2009
they did not ask if they could use our name inthis paper or the southtown and should be sued
#6 Mar 5, 2009
The paper or the jury did not get all the facts and the female prosacuter pointed at russell,s parents when she called him a lyer what a dummy and the judge was ajerk as well
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