Intent at issue in Visine poisoning
June 17, 2013
An Alta Sierra man arrested for allegedly poisoning his ex-girlfriend with Visine meant it only as a prank, his attorney argued in court Thursday.
Nevada County Deputy Public Defender Tamara Zuromskis said the defendant’s intent was not to cause serious harm, and he should not be facing multiple felony charges of willful poisoning and spousal abuse.
“This is probably a simple battery,” she argued.
Shayne Curtis Carpenter, 27, allegedly put the Visine in the woman’s coffee because he thought it would cause vomiting and diarrhea. But the eye drops contain tetrahydrozoline, which can cause symptoms that include difficulty breathing, blurred vision, changes in blood pressure, nausea and vomiting, tremors or seizures, coma and low body temperature.
The woman sought treatment at Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital, was treated and released in the early March incident.
The woman testified in Nevada County Superior Court that she had broken up with Carpenter in February but that he was still living at the residence in March.
She said she had a bad cold and that Carpenter was making her soup and coffee. She testified that she had been throwing up, had diarrhea, cold sweats and chills and black spots in her vision for two or three days before she went to the hospital.
On March 5, she said, she looked through Carpenter’s phone and found a text message that said he had been putting Visine in her coffee.
“I was frantic,” she said. “I didn’t know what to do.”
The woman testified that she continued to throw up for a few days but that she made a full recovery.
Nevada County Sheriff’s Detective Nate Hutson testified that his report erroneously indicated the victim tested positive for tetrahydrozoline, when in fact she tested negative.
Hutson testified that Carpenter admitted to putting two or three squirts of Visine in the woman’s coffee. Carpenter said “multiple times” that it was just a joke and that he didn’t mean to hurt her, Hutson said.
“Did he say he was an idiot?” Zuromskis asked.
Hutson said he couldn’t recall.
“Did he express regret?” she continued, to which Hutson responded in the affirmative.
Zuromskis sought to highlight the popular culture notion that Visine is a popular prank that can cause diarrhea and vomiting, asking Hutson whether he had ever seen “Wedding Crashers.”
In Hutson’s summary, the man dosed with Visine in the comedy “becomes violently ill” and is seen to be “in excruciating pain.”
“This is a prank gone wrong,” Zuromskis told Judge Candace Heidelberger, adding that a charge of willful poisoning was overkill because that a normal person would not think of Visine as a deadly poison.
She also argued that the spousal abuse should be dismissed or reduced to a misdemeanor because there was no bodily injury.
Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Ow disagreed, saying that anyone would have reasonable knowledge that Visine would cause injury, since the packaging clearly states that if it is ingested, the person should go to the hospital or call a poison control emergency hot line.
Ow said the text messages, which said that “Payback is a b—-,” showed a level of callousness that elevated the actions to something beyond a prank.
In the end, Heidelberger chose to take the matter under submission because she wanted to research the elements that influence a charge of willful poisoning. The matter was put on the calendar for June 20.