Judgment of the Supreme Court convicting the accused, following a jury trial, of manslaughter and sentencing him to an indeterminate term of imprisonment of from six to eighteen years, is reversed on the law and the matter remanded for a new trial.
The accused was indicted for murder in the second degree, criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree and criminal use of a firearm in the second degree as the result of a fatal shooting. The deceased was a physician who had purchased real property located in Bronx County. The accused was the seller of the parcel of land in question, and, following the transaction, the deceased and the accused became good friends. However, the relationship between the two men deteriorated rapidly after the accused first agreed to sell the deceased man’s one-half of a building but subsequently refused to go through with the deal. The deceased man thereupon instituted a lawsuit to compel specific performance, and, when the parties were unable to settle their differences, the matter proceeded to trial and judgment, the outcome of which was that the accused was directed to sell the property to the deceased. The accused filed a notice of appeal and moved for a stay, which was granted on condition that he files a bond and perfect his appeal by a specified date. All additional settlement discussions were unsuccessful, and, finally, on the day before the bond was due, the dispute erupted into violence. The accused and the deceased became embroiled in a heated altercation during which the accused was apparently punched by the deceased and then threatened by him with further physical injury. In response, the accused removed a loaded gun from the desk in his office and followed the accused downstairs to ascertain whether he had left the premises in which the accused man’s printing business was located. The two men exchanged some more words, and the accused fired three shots at the deceased, one of which struck the latter, fracturing his spine resulting to spinal injury and perforating the spinal cord. All efforts to revive the deceased failed.
At the ensuing trial, the arresting officers described the accused as being dazed and incoherent after the shooting, and, indeed, the accused man’s defense was that he lacked criminal responsibility by reason of mental disease or defect. The psychiatric expert who testified on the accused man’s behalf, stated that at the time of the incident, the accused was suffering from a severe adjustment disorder with anxiety and that this condition significantly impaired his ability to comprehend the consequences of his act or to distinguish the real from the unreal. In the opinion of the accused man’s psychiatric expert, because of a childhood eye injury and the attendant loss of his left eye, the accused lived in constant fear of losing the other eye and becoming totally blind. Therefore, when the deceased had beaten him so severely on the day of the shooting that his glass eye had fallen out and also promised to return and blind him, the accused became so petrified that he ceased to function in a rational manner. In rebuttal, the court called the psychiatrist who agreed that the accused had suffered from an adjustment disorder but, nonetheless, concluded that the accused had possessed the capacity to appreciate the nature and consequences of his act, as well as its wrongfulness. Both psychiatrists concurred that the accused was not psychotic.