Hendershott v. People (1982)

Procedural History

– Supreme Court of Colorado


–          D, was waiting drunk, and attacked his three year old GF, and was charged and found guilty of assault in the third degree.

–          Defendant wanted to show, that he lacked the requisite culpability of “knowingly” or “recklessly” which is essential to 3rd degree assault.

–          DA, motioned to exclude this evidence because the defense described a specific intent crime where assault in the 3rd degree is general…Under general intent, recklessness is NOT an excuse for liability because you voluntarily got drunk on your own which was reckless in itself.

–          County court rendered it in-admissible as a matter of law for a general intent crime!

–          Granted certiorari to the issue down below.


– Whether opinion evidence of a mental impairment due to a mental disease or defect may be admitted to negate the mens rea for nonspecific intent crime such as assault in third degree.


– Yes, it has to be admitted.


–          All people are deemed innocent to proven guilty on every element of a charged offense.  If the prosecution states that it was a matter of law of his crime being general intent, it is not constitutional to allow the prosecution to assert that it was recklessness or negligence without the defense being able to “show” the jury his m/r at the time of the crime…

–          It is unconstitutional to allow the prosecution to prove something as a matter of law, and not allow the defense to answer back…It would show that you are guilty as a matter of law, and not innocent till proven guilty.


–          Not allowing a counter-argument is taking away the defendant’s due process of law.

–          Not so much to do with general or specific intent…If it is assumed that it was general intent on behalf of the D, then the defense needs to prove it, and not let it sit as a matter of fact/law…If prosecution proves that it is general intent, then the D must be allowed to counter the argument.

–          Unlike voluntarily getting drunk, a brain dysfunction that could have caused the D to act the way he did, MUST be permissible in court of law.


–          Overturned.

Comments are closed.