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Old 02-22-07, 09:29 PM   #1
fholt
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WV Court: Not paying attention NOT negligent, even if you kill a couple innocents

I guess I don't know what to say...

http://www.dailymail.com/story/News/...fic-death-case

High court reverses ruling in traffic death case

Justin D. Anderson
Daily Mail Staff



Thursday February 22, 2007

State Supreme Court justices have ruled that merely not paying attention to the road wasn't enough to convict a woman of double negligent homicide.

Marjorie Virginia Green, 71, slammed into the back of a vehicle on U.S. 50 in Hampshire County on a Sunday morning two years ago, killing two people.

Rhonda Dante and her 17-year-old daughter, Kaitlyn, were stopped in the eastbound lane of the road waiting for a caravan of about 30 motorcyclists coming the other way to pass before they turned left into a church parking lot.

Green, who had no prior criminal record, was on her way to a picnic in Maryland, court records state.

As she approached Dante's vehicle, Green was watching the motorcyclists, who were riding in memory of a fellow motorcyclist who had been killed, according to court records.

Going about 59 mph, Green crashed into the back of Dante's vehicle, forcing it into the westbound lane. Kaitlyn and one of the motorcyclists, Janeann Stehle, 57, were both killed as a result of the accident. Rhonda Dante was severely injured.

A Hampshire grand jury indicted Green on two misdemeanor counts of negligent homicide in January 2005. She was later convicted and sentenced to two years in the Potomac Highlands Regional Jail, where she remains.

At trial in August, State Trooper Geoffrey Pesko testified that there was no evidence that Green had tried to stop before colliding with Dante's car.

One witness described the accident as an "explosion," sending debris 30 feet in the air.

Green called her own accident re-constructionist, who testified that Green did hit her brakes when she was 397 feet behind Dante's vehicle and noticed her brake lights.

The state, in arguing against the appeal, disagreed.

"She simply drove, full speed, into the rear of Ms. Dante's car," their reply stated.

Green didn't testify at trial, although her statement to police was admitted into evidence.

She said she'd followed Dante all the way from Augusta and Dante kept hitting her brakes. Green said she recalled thinking she'd be glad when she could get around Dante.

When she noticed Dante had stopped in the road, Green recalled: "I knew I couldn't get past her on the left and I knew I couldn't get by her on the right so I hit her in the butt and as far as I could see in the other lane it was nothing but motorcycles."

In reviewing the appeal, justices cited case law that determined mere inattentiveness to the road didn't rise to the occasion of reckless disregard, an element in proving negligent homicide.

Justice Joseph Albright, in delivering the opinion of the court, said the court was "mindful that the result of the collision was disastrous, capable of giving rise to fully understandable outrage in a community properly grieving the resulting deaths.

"However, our inquiry here must focus on the character of (Green's) acts and omissions which produced these horrible results."

A year after her conviction, Green was granted post-conviction bail of $10,000. But she couldn't post it because she'd previously lost her house in the civil lawsuit that arose from the accident.

Contact writer Justin D. Anderson at 348-4843.
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Old 02-23-07, 07:07 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by fholt
In reviewing the appeal, justices cited case law that determined mere inattentiveness to the road didn't rise to the occasion of reckless disregard, an element in proving negligent homicide.
I can't blame them for reaching this conclusion given our current understand of how attention works.
After all, everyone is inattentive from time to time. To punish someone for a crash that occurred just because it was their (randomly selected as far as we know) turn to be inattentive is arguably arbitrary justice.

What we need is evidence that people decide when to pay attention to what, and that choosing to be inattentive when someone is slowing (much less stopping) in front of you does rise to the occasion of reckless disregard. But I don't think the science is there, and it's possible it will never be there.
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Old 02-23-07, 07:45 PM   #3
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I am sorry, but plowing into a stopped vehicle at 59 mph without ever breaking is more than slight random inattention.
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Old 02-23-07, 07:50 PM   #4
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They didn't say not paying attention isn't negligent. They said Negligent Homicide requires a showing of "reckless disregard."

Now, I'm curious about the woman's testimony, where she said she couldn't pass left or right, "so I hit them in the butt." What happened to her brakes-- why didn't she try using her brakes if she couldn't pass? To me, that testimony might indicate reckless disregard, if she "hit them in the butt" in reckless disregard of the consequences.
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Old 02-23-07, 08:16 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Helmet Head
I can't blame them for reaching this conclusion given our current understand of how attention works.
After all, everyone is inattentive from time to time. To punish someone for a crash that occurred just because it was their (randomly selected as far as we know) turn to be inattentive is arguably arbitrary justice.

What we need is evidence that people decide when to pay attention to what, and that choosing to be inattentive when someone is slowing (much less stopping) in front of you does rise to the occasion of reckless disregard. But I don't think the science is there, and it's possible it will never be there.
Gobbledegook.

There's a duty to keep a proper lookout. There's a duty to exercise due care. Violate either of those duties, and injure somebody, and you can be held negligent.

Reckless disregard has nothing to do with "choosing to be inattentive." It means that the person is acting with conscious indifference to the consequences of an act. It's the criminal analogue of gross negligence, and means that the person knew, or should have known, what the likely consequences of their act (or failure to act) would be, and they did it anyway.
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Old 02-25-07, 08:05 PM   #6
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"I knew I couldn't get past her on the left and I knew I couldn't get by her on the right so I hit her in the butt and as far as I could see in the other lane it was nothing but motorcycles."
Sounds like she was paying attention plenty, and proceeded to drive into them kiling several people and frankly didn't care. Glad to hear she at least got two years jail time and lost her house.
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Old 02-25-07, 08:51 PM   #7
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Drive defensively, buy a tank!
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Old 02-26-07, 08:35 AM   #8
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More people, more cars, more electronic stimulation more slaughter of innocent by the guiltless. Now this driver joins the ranks of our First Lady Barbara Bush who also killed someone in a blameless accident when she was a teen. Seems like MADD should just drop the first "D"
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Old 02-26-07, 09:05 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blue Order
They didn't say not paying attention isn't negligent. They said Negligent Homicide requires a showing of "reckless disregard."

Now, I'm curious about the woman's testimony, where she said she couldn't pass left or right, "so I hit them in the butt." What happened to her brakes-- why didn't she try using her brakes if she couldn't pass? To me, that testimony might indicate reckless disregard, if she "hit them in the butt" in reckless disregard of the consequences.
It sounds like WV has a similar problem as OR - needs a tighter definition of "reckless disregard", perhaps?
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Old 02-26-07, 09:48 AM   #10
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Seems to me that it is reckless of the state to allow drivers who are so easily distracted. What if she does this again?

Another lesson is here for drivers. If you are making a left, do not turn your wheel to make the turn, until you are moving.
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Old 02-26-07, 10:00 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Blue Order
Gobbledegook.

There's a duty to keep a proper lookout. There's a duty to exercise due care. Violate either of those duties, and injure somebody, and you can be held negligent.
Agreed, but that's a civil standard, not the criminal one. The reference to the civil suit at the end of the article suggests that she's already been found civilly negligent. Reckless disregard is a higher standard to meet, though.
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Old 02-26-07, 11:03 AM   #12
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Tragedy.
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Old 02-26-07, 01:18 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by fholt
A year after her conviction, Green was granted post-conviction bail of $10,000. But she couldn't post it because she'd previously lost her house in the civil lawsuit that arose from the accident.
At least that's something. Pretty lame when it takes the civil courts to do something the criminal courts can't.
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