Archive for March, 2007

The Unicorn Revisited

Wednesday, March 21st, 2007

A few days ago I posted about a gentleman in Montana who was arrested for drunk driving, but claimed that he was not driving — a Unicorn was.

Update:  yet another foul-up by prosecutors at a defendant’s expense.  It seems that the gentleman had explained to the officer that a woman in the car had been driving.  Later, a prosecutor who was familiar with the case emailed the prosecutor who was to appear for the arraignment that the defendant was going to use the “SEDI defense” (somebody-else-did-it).  He jokingly referred to it as “the Unicorn defense”, suggesting that some mythical being was driving. 

Unfortunately, the prosecutor at the arraignment apparently did not understand the humor, and at the arraignment asked the judge for high bail, explaining that the defendant had claimed a unicorn was driving. 

(Thanks to Bob Battle.)


The DUI Double Standard

Monday, March 19th, 2007

Similar DUI fatality cases, but one is charged as vehicular manslaughter, the other as murder.  Why?

Inconsistency in DUI Death Verdicts?

Sacramento, Calif.  Mar. 14  –  The cases are very similar. In one, a drunk driver kills a police officer. In the other the drunk driver is a police officer. But the outcomes, and the penalties, are very different.

In fact, after a Placer County jury found Eric Dungan, 27, guilty of second degree murder Tuesday in the death of Rocklin police officer Matt Redding, Dungan's family raised the question. Dungan's aunt brought up a similar case in which off-duty Sacramento police officer Jason March was drunk when he struck and killed 13-year-old Michael Ramirez in Elk Grove.

"Broad daylight … he got vehicular manslaughter. He was a police officer. Eric's second degree," said Dungan's aunt, Liz Brooke. "Does that make sense to anyone? It doesn't make sense to us."

The March and Dungan incidents both happened in 2005, but they have similarities. Both had blood alcohol levels around .16 to .18 — twice the legal limit. Both drove away after hitting the victim. Neither was speeding nor driving recklessly, other than being intoxicated, before or during the crash. Neither had criminal records, nor any prior DUI convictions.

Yet there are key differences in the cases. March hit Ramirez during the afternoon on a residential street. Dungan hit Redding in the early morning hours on Highway 65. Dungan took full responsibility and expressed remorse on the stand. March never did…

On a separate issue, this again raises the question of just how far are we going with with the emerging murder approach to DUI fatality cases? See my earlier posts:

From Manslaughter to Murder in 5 Easy Steps
DUI + Fatality = Murder?

MADD: Murder for DUI
The Death Penalty for DUI?

New DUI Defense Unveiled

Sunday, March 18th, 2007

Actually, a variation on the old "some other dude" defense:

'The Unicorn Was Driving'

Billings, Mont.  May 14 – A man accused of drunken driving and crashing his truck into a lamp-post told police a unicorn had been at the wheel when it careered off the road, reported local media on Wednesday…  

Phillip Holliday, 42, pleaded not guilty to felony charges of criminal endangerment and drunken driving when he appeared before a court in the western state of Montana on Tuesday, reported the Billings Gazette.

Holliday insisted a unicorn was driving when he slammed into the street lighting, shortly after jumping a red light.