Christmas Eve ’07 crash trial, verdict: guilty

This has been a long and arduous journey legal journey (continuing on as of 2014 still dealing with pcr motions. And I see a number of pro per motions in Oct 2016).  The human and societal costs are staggering.

For starters, one victim, a motorist, dead. A number of injured motorists. The suspect, locked up since the crash on December 24, 2007.

Christopher Lee Smith, 32 years old, stands accused of DUI and manslaughter in a wrong-way, head-on collision on Pecos Road near 14th Street in Phoenix, AZ.

According to the Ahwatukee Foothills news story; “At the time of the crash, Smith was on probation for a previous misdemeanor DUI…”

Superior Court case number CR 2008102616 which can be looked up at; direct link to Case Minutes; and direct link to the case in Maricopa County Superior Court.

The “Sleep Driving” defense?

The so-called “sleep driving” defense may be employed, see e.g. this minute entry “Defense expert witness re sleep driving is discussed”

Trial delayed again due to a death in one of the victim’s family. The AFN is reporting (Oct 30, 2009? but i can’t find online) that the defendant has rejected a plea deal (no details given) and trial is scheduled for February 2010. The defendant remains incarcerated.

The Trial and Guilty Verdict

Trial coverage. Verdict, guilty. 2nd Degree Murder, and 3x aggravated assault.

Sleep driving. Sleep driving? SLEEP DRIVING!? What will the defense lawyers think of next? Does this ever really work? “…But defense attorney Charles Shell told the same jury that the tragedy was not his client’s fault because Smith was driving in his sleep and was unaware of what he was doing”, “An expert witness hired by the defense, Dr. Dave Gaither of Illinois, testified that if Smith had gone to sleep first, then he was probably sleep driving and unaware of what he was doing.” (What kind of doctor? apparently not a physician).


Wrong-way Christmas Eve driver sentenced to 23.5 years in prison. The print edition, which strangely varied from the online version, and was much longer.

“he asked for the minimum 16 years, based upon the fact that Smith was on probation at the time for endangerment stemming from a Tempe incident where he refused to pull over of a police officer, then drove toward the officer requiring him to jump out of the way and later attempted to flee on foot…” “smith also had an extensive juvenile court record and a previous DUI”. “In sentencing Smith, Myers gave him 16 years for the second-degree murder of Vo, and 7.5 years for each of the three aggravated assaults…Myers ordered that the murder time be served first and that the three aggravated  assault terms could run concurrently. Smith plans to appeal the jury’s verdict”. [court minute entry on sentencing]

Post Conviction Relief

PCR. The case continues on as of early 2013, Smith has petitioned declaring indigence and to have a public defender appointed was granted.  His trial lawyer, Charles K Shell,  is withdrawn. Motion for post conviction relief is expected by March 3, 2013.

Grinding on, there is continuing activity regarding PCR… In denying pcr in Oct 2013 there is some interesting what I imagine is pretty standard pcr boilerplate:

The Court has also considered the affidavits of Defendant, Tom Henze [who is Henze?], and James Gaither [the defendant’s sleep driving expert]. The Defendant’s Petition alleges Defendant’s assigned counsel was ineffective by not properly interviewing witnesses, agreeing to a stipulation regarding a prior DUI conviction, and by not properly preparing or using expert James Gaither… As a result, the Court finds that the Defendant does not demonstrate a colorable claim of ineffective assistance of counsel.

Some updates, the link to CA-CR 14-0086 PRPC seems dead; a web cached version seems to say it was denied, and ASC denied as well, killing the PCR: “Letter from ASC, 09/15/2014, re: Petition for Review DENIED on 09/15/201”

Some updates 2016

A couple of “Pro per motions” popped up in August of 2016. At the moment, anyway, the link for minutes is throwing an internal server error


4 thoughts on “Christmas Eve ’07 crash trial, verdict: guilty”

  1. I was at the trial and no for a fact that the family has a history of sleep disorders. You probably did not do any background info on Dr James Gaither. For the prosecutor to say Dr Gaither was paid to lie is outrageous. This young man did not act egregiously.

    It was the last holday he was going to be spending with his family since they were scheduled to move out of state. He was very family oriented and wanted to spend that time with his parents. They had planned to go to breakfast Christmas morning and so had no reason to leave the house.

  2. Obviously the previous writer did not check out Dr Gaither’s creditials. For the prosecutor to say Dr Gaither was paid to lie is outrageous. Mr Smith did not commit an egregious act. He has a family with a history of sleep disorders. Mr. Smith planned to spend the holiday with his family because he knew they would be moving out of state and would not be likely to see them for some time. There was no reason for him to leave the home since it was planned to spend Christmas day together and go to brunch and a movie. Mr Smith is very family oriented and would not consciouly get in a car and drive.

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