People v. Newton
8 Cal. App.3d 359, 87 Cal.Rptr. 394 (1970)
Newton was in an altercation
with the police. He was shot in the stomach. He wrestled the gun away
from the policeman and killed him with it. Then he staggered away and
took a bus to the hospital.
Newton was arrested and
charged with voluntary manslaughter.
The Trial Court convicted
Newton. He appealed.
Newton claimed that he lost
consciousness when he was shot, and therefore his actions were not voluntary.
The Appellate Court overturned
the conviction and remanded for a new trial.
The Appellate Court found
that unconsciousness is a complete defense to the charge of criminal
The Court found that the
jury should have been instructed that if they found Newton was acting
autonomously, they should acquit.
Model Penal Code §2.01 says that you can't deter involuntary conduct,
so there is no reason to punish them for it.
Although, for public safety
you might want to send them for custodial commitment or therapy if they
There is a difference between involuntary and unintentionial. If you are driving and accidentally run over
a pedestrian, that act is unintentional, but it is still voluntary, and therefore it is still blameworthy.