BOZEMAN – The Montana Supreme Court denied a Three Forks man’s efforts to have his deliberate homicide conviction overturned because jurors were reminded that under state law being voluntarily intoxicated does not excuse conduct that otherwise would be found to be a crime.
Jay Myran, 41, was found guilty of shooting Gayle Brewster in May 2009 and burning her body in a barrel. He was sentenced to 120 years in prison without the possibility of parole.
His attorney, Colin Stephens, argued the law disallowing intoxication as a defense is unconstitutional, especially in cases where the defendant argues he acted with negligence, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported.
Myran testified that he had been drinking with Brewster on May 12, 2009, and estimated he’d consumed at least an 18-pack of beer that day. Myran’s friend and his son testified that Myran and Brewster had argued.
Myran’s defense was that he was guilty not of deliberate homicide, but of negligent homicide based on his level of intoxication and reckless behavior with a gun. Such a conviction would result in a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
Myran’s attorney argued the state law and thus, the jury instruction, prevented jurors from considering Myran’s theory of defense. Stephens also argued that although the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled the law does not violate the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution, it violates Montana’s Constitution.
The state argued that Myran fully presented his defense regarding intoxication and negligent homicide to the jury and that he failed to establish that the state constitution provides a greater right to present a defense than the U.S. Constitution.
The Supreme Court, in a Nov. 8 ruling, agreed with the state, noting that Montana’s due process clause is identical to that in the U.S. Constitution.