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  1. #1
    Senior Member kf5nd's Avatar
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    Houston: bus driver charged with homicide

    A school bus driver in Pasadena, TX (just east of Houston) will be charged with negligent homicide in the death of a little girl who was run over by his bus. She was in the cross-walk where she was supposed to be. He said he "didn't see her".

    Maybe this will start a trend in the Houston / Harris County jurisdiction, where drivers are held accountable for their actions.

    See: www.houstonchronicle.com no registration required (yet)
    Peter Wang, LCI
    Houston, TX USA

  2. #2
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    Was she thinking about bikes? Is that the connection?

  3. #3
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    Take a look at this to see an example of another irresponsible bus driver:

    Cyclist killed by bus in North Carolina

    Cyclist killed by bus in North Carolina

  4. #4
    Senior Member filtersweep's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chemcycle
    Was she thinking about bikes? Is that the connection?
    No- the connections seems to be "I didn't see him/her" is a free pass from taking any responsibility while running over a cyclist.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Keith99's Avatar
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    The original piece is hard to find, but I reamember it. The girl was riding her bike to school. It was very unclear but it seems she had been riding on the sidewalk and most likely was walking her bike across the street (however the article had nothing that explicitly excluded her riding off the sidewalk into the crosswalk).

  6. #6
    hill hater nova's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chemcycle
    Was she thinking about bikes? Is that the connection?
    No its the fact its the same excuse motorists who hit cyclist use.The ever popular "i didnt see him/her"

    I say great it sets a precident. Not great that some one was killed but heres hoping some good comes from this. Hopefully the driver will be found guilty and get 10+ years for it.

  7. #7
    Senior Member kf5nd's Avatar
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    There's a great deal of contraversy locally here about this indictment; mostly legalese that I don't understand; did they charge him with the right crime, what was the legislative intent behind this particular variety of murder charge. I hope it gets resolved. I hope he gets charged with something.

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    Next time it might be a good idea to copy and paste the entire article into the thread. Your link takes you to the main page for the houston chronicle online and it is very hard to find the story.

    I did find something about it although I don't think there is anything here about her riding a bicycle and this happened last august:

    Oct. 11, 2005, 11:08PM
    'Parlor trick': school bus murder tag
    By RICK CASEY
    Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle


    Nobody in the world thinks a Pasadena school bus driver intentionally ran over 9-year-old Ruth Young last August.

    Not even the prosecutor who has charged him in court with murder.

    "It's clear from the evidence that he didn't see her and didn't realize she was there," said Assistant District Attorney Warren Diepraam on Tuesday.

    The 41-year-old driver, Jerry Michael Cook, is more than remorseful. He has reportedly sought psychiatric help.

    There is no measuring his personal tragedy against that of the family that lost their little girl.

    They don't get to watch their daughter grow up and enjoy her as an adult.

    He has to live the rest of his life emotionally trying to take back the moment he realized he had run over her.

    Both tragedies are unspeakably horrific.

    The murder charge, however, only adds to the horror for Cook without lessening the horror for the Young family.

    What's more, it is a perversion of the law.

    Prosecutor Diepraam admits the evidence is not sufficient to charge Cook with manslaughter.


    Descending order of crimes
    "For a manslaughter charge, the prosecution has to show that a person knew about the danger and consciously disregarded the danger," he said. "In this situation, I would have to show he knew the little girl was there and drove over her anyway. That clearly didn't happen."

    So how did Diepraam charge him with murder?

    To understand, we need to review Chapter 19 of the Texas Penal Code, which covers criminal homicide.

    The chapter divides homicide into a descending order of crimes: capital murder, which can result in the death penalty; murder, a first-degree felony; manslaughter, a second-degree felony; and, the lowest level, criminally negligent homicide, a state jail felony.

    Diepraam also charged Cook with this lowest-penalty homicide.

    The code says one is guilty if "he causes the death of an individual by criminal negligence."


    Glad not to be on jury
    Texas law defines criminal negligence as an action in which a person "ought to be aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the circumstances exist or the result will occur. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that the failure to perceive it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise under all the circumstances as viewed from the actor's standpoint."

    Most of us will be glad we aren't on the jury that has to decide whether Cook's behavior even met this definition. But how does Diepraam take it up two notches to murder?

    Texas law provides three ways of committing murder. You can intentionally kill a person, or you can intend to hurt him or her real bad and do so in a way that leads to death.

    The third way: If a person commits or attempts to commit a felony "other than manslaughter" and during the crime or the immediate flight from the crime "commits or attempts to commit an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes the death of an individual."

    The Legislature wanted to make sure, for example, that if a bank robber recklessly shot up a bank on his way out and unintentionally killed someone, it would be murder.

    But by exempting manslaughter as a crime, lawmakers appear to be saying that you can't trump up a lower level homicide into a higher level one under this provision.

    Mitchell Berman, the Bernard J. Ward Centennial Professor of Law at the University of Texas Law School, specializes in the philosophy of criminal law.

    He offered a one-word assessment of charging Cook with murder: "Outrageous."

    Asked to explain, he said, "It makes a mockery of the statutory scheme. The whole point of providing grades of homicide is to distinguish the most serious from the least, generally tied to the culpability of the offender."

    He said culpability is determined by intent, knowledge, recklessness and negligence.

    "What's the point of breaking homicide into degrees if we allow anyone to undermine that system by ratcheting up cases that are paradigmatic of lower degrees of homicide to higher ones?" he asked.

    Then he added, more quotably, "It's like a parlor trick."

    Diepraam, who still has to take the case to a grand jury, based his decision on a passionate dislike of vehicular fatalities and a passionate concern for children.

    "If you're not safe in a crosswalk, where are you safe?" he asked. "He had the absolute duty to regard that, and he didn't. He was in a rush. He looked to his left and not to his right."

    I admire passion in prosecutors.

    But they still should follow the law.

    UT's Berman believes current case law won't allow Diepraam to build a murder case on negligent homicide, because it is a lesser included charge to manslaughter.

    I hope he's right.

    You can write to Rick Casey at P.O. Box 4260, Houston, TX 77210, or e-mail him at rick.casey@chron.com.

  9. #9
    Senior Member kf5nd's Avatar
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    I didn't want to violate copyright laws.

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