First paragraph reads: "A woman accused of beating her 83-year-old mother to death was intoxicated at the time by prescription antidepressants and shouldn't be held criminally responsible, defense lawyers argued Wednesday in state court.
Paragraph 3 reads [in part]: "Bagwell said medical experts will show that the drugs Countess was taking created 'unexpected results at unexpected times.'"
Woman accused in mother's slaying uses rare defense
By CHRIS KAHN
Associated Press Writer
Published September 24, 2003
ROANOKE, Va. -- A woman accused of beating her 83-year-old mother to death was intoxicated at the time by prescription antidepressants and shouldn't be held criminally responsible, defense lawyers argued Wednesday in state court.
Cindy Gail Countess, 49, pleaded innocent to one count of first-degree murder in the fatal bludgeoning of Edna Dooley. She doesn't even remember what happened the morning her mother was found bleeding on the bathroom floor, defense lawyer Anna Bagwell said.
During opening statements, Bagwell did not dispute prosecutors claims that Countess beat and stomped Dooley to death. Instead, Bagwell said she hoped to show Judge Clifford R. Weckstein "how a woman might kill her beloved mother under the influence of intoxicating substances."
Bagwell said medical experts will show that the drugs Countess was taking created "unexpected results at unexpected times." After the hearing, Bagwell would not name the medication Countess was taking.
The involuntary intoxication defense is a rarity in Virginia and extremely hard to prove, said William Hassan, a Fairfax lawyer who successfully used the defense several years ago.
It stems from a 1923 Virginia Supreme Court ruling that says someone can be considered involuntarily intoxicated if impaired by trickery or physician error.
"You have to show that you followed the physician's instructions to the letter, and still you reached a level of insanity," Hassan said.
In court Wednesday, Countess sat silently between defense lawyers in a navy blazer, her graying brown hair combed away from her eyes. She glanced at the audience with a sad, strained look as police told the judge how they found Dooley dead on the bathroom floor.
Prosecutor Alice Ekirch said that the morning of the murder, Dooley's blood was found on her daughter's socks and shoes.
Roanoke Police Officer M.L. Pendleton said when he began taking pictures of the house and gathering evidence, Countess told him "if she had done something to her mother, she wasn't in the right mind," he said.
Countess' trial is expected to conclude on Thursday.