A Columbia man wants to argue to a jury he was too intoxicated to be convicted of trying to escape from custody.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Willie J. Epps Jr. is expected to decide Wednesday if Ronald Elwood Brown can argue an intoxication defense at his trial Nov. 4 in U.S. District Court.
Brown is charged with a single count of attempting to escape confinement in a November 2018 incident at the University of Missouri Hospital where he allegedly tried to grab a deputy’s gun.
Brown’s attorney, Christopher Hayes, declined to comment Monday. He has requested that his client be able to use an intoxication defense to the jury. Brown was at the time of the incident suffering from methamphetamine toxicity and kidney injury, he wrote in a court brief.
“The Defendant should be allowed to present evidence and argue that he was in fact intoxicated and that as a result there is reasonable doubt that he lacked the specific intent to commit the offense of attempted escape from custody,” Hayes wrote in the brief.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Lynn on Friday filed a motion to preclude Brown from using such a defense. Lynn argues there is no evidence he was high at the time of his escape attempt, and when he awoke after being given a sedative, he was “calm and cooperative.”
“Indeed, after the sedative wore off, Brown woke up in the hospital and watched television for some time,” Lynn wrote. “He made no statements about people trying to kill him, and showed no signs of hallucination. Later, he had a conversation with the attending nurse and gave an accurate explanation about the reasons why he was under arrest.”
University of Missouri School of Law Associate Professor Ben Trachtenberg said he was not aware of the facts of the case, but in general, voluntary intoxication is not a defense to a crime.
“If you get drunk and punch someone, it’s not a defense to say, ‘Oh I was drunk,’” Trachtenberg said. “But involuntary intoxication sometimes is a defense. If, for example, you got hurt and the doctors filled you up with medicine and you took the locks from the hospital bed next to you, you might not be guilty of stealing.”
Brown was one of 27 defendants, including Boone County Clerk employee Christin Sledd, indicted in a cocaine distribution conspiracy in November 2014 in Boone County. He was sentenced to five years and released in August 2018 on parole, but three months later was accused of numerous violations.
On Nov. 15, 2018, Boone County sheriff’s deputies went to Brown’s residence to pick him up. When they arrived, a family member was holding him down, his eyes were abnormally wide and he was claiming people with guns were in the house and down the hallway, according to court documents.
Deputies took him to the hospital to get clearance to confine him. On the way, he claimed people with guns were trying to enter the ambulance and kill him and he was sedated to keep him from breaking free, according to court documents. Upon arrival at the hospital, he was admitted for methamphetamine abuse and acute kidney injury.
About 4 p.m., Brown asked to use the restroom. He approached the toilet and stated, “Man I need to get out of here,” while glancing at the deputy’s sidearm and the open door. Brown then lunged at the deputy and grabbed at his gun, but the holster restraints prevented him from removing it.
The deputy pushed him into a wall and with assistance was able to restrain Brown and confine him until U.S. Marshals arrived the next day to pick him up.