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The Zombie Defense

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Park Dietz & Associates, forensic psychology experts, have an email newsletter.  The current issue has an article on Ambien:

The "Ambien Defense" has been getting a lot of press in 2014.  Sometimes called the "Zombie Defense," it's the argument that someone charged with a crime--and the crimes have ranged from DWI to child sexual abuse to murder-- took Ambien (or generic zolpidem) beforehand and had no memory of the crime.
 •  August 19:  A Montana man was sentenced to 100 years for murdering two sisters in their early 20s.  He stabbed one victim over 130 times, including 34 times in the face, and beat, gagged, strangled, and stabbed the other.  A judge called the killings "ritualistic" and "systematic."  The man said he took Ambien before the killings and had no memory of them, but pleaded no contest to avoid a trial.
A few similar examples follow. 
Ambien's FDA-approved Medication Guide includes a warning that "[a]fter taking AMBIEN, you may get up out of bed while not being fully awake and do an activity that you do not know you are doing.  The next morning, you may not remember that you did anything during the night."  Specific activities mentioned include driving a car and having sex.

One 30-something Brooklyn woman has mixed feelings about Ambien's reputation as a sex enhancer.  As she explained it to the Daily Beast, "I'm now curious if I had the best sexual experience of my life and don't even remember it."

As with the effects of alcohol and other sedative-hypnotic drugs, the effects of Ambien on mental state at the time of an act must be carefully distinguished from the effects of Ambien on memory for the act.
That last point is particularly important for criminal responsibility.  A person who knows what he is doing when he does it is fully responsible for his actions, even if he doesn't remember them later.

Also in the same issue is an article on marijuana and its varying effects on people with preexisting mental illness.

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