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?