DUI + Fatality = Murder?

Posted by Lawrence Taylor on March 1st, 2007

In the previous post ("From Manslaughter to Murder in 5 Easy Steps"), I discussed the legal fiction of charging murder rather than manslaughter for a DUI-caused fatality — the result largely of political pandering and abuse of prosecutorial discretion.

In today's news (New York Post):


Killer Gets 'Easy' 18 Years

Long Island. New York Post, March 1 – A Long Island man who murdered a wedding limousine driver and a 7-year-old flower girl in a head-on DWI crash was sentenced to 18 years to life yesterday…

Defense attorney Stephen LaMagna never denied that his client should be held responsible, just not for murder…

After the verdict, he complained that jurors discussed the case with relatives and conferred secretly outside the jury room. He argued that they weighed facts they should not have considered, including an erroneous report that Heidgen had a previous conviction for driving while intoxicated…

Jury forewoman Loy Malcolm later said she regretted voting for a murder conviction and said she did so only after tiring of the tense bickering inside the jury room.

 

To be clear: I have no problem with the legislature increasing penalties for vehicular manslaughter if they see fit. However, I do have a problem with prosecutors twisting murder statutes to get longer jail terms in manslaughter cases.

At least the prosecutor didn't try for the death penalty, as was done in a North Carolina case.

(Thanks to Susan Sullivan.)

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