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 that the law disallowing intoxication as a defense is unconstitutional, especially in cases where the defendant argues that he acted with negligence.
Myran testified that he had been drinking with Brewster on May 12, 2009, and estimated he had 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 son testified that his father had said several times: "Let's kill Gayle." The boy said he dismissed it as "drunk talk," although Myran had made similar statements for weeks, court records said.
At some point, Myran took out a shotgun and later loaded it and raised it toward Brewster. Myran's son testified that Brewster walked toward Myran, put the gun in her mouth and said, "Do it, cowboy." The gun went off.
The boy acknowledged telling Gallatin County detectives that his father put the gun in Brewster's mouth. Myran testified that the gun went off when Brewster grabbed it.
The next morning, Myran and his then 14-year-old son started burning Brewster's body in a barrel, testimony indicated.
The boy pleaded guilty to misdemeanor tampering with evidence and received a probationary sentence in July 2010 in exchange for cooperating with prosecutors in the case against his father.
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.