Phoenix driver pleads guilty in fatal 2012 car a-word

So this is weird — the weird part being that a driver who doesn’t seem to have been doing much if anything wrong, while the driver/victim seemed to have been doing everything wrong — was charged with Neg Hom.

The victim was a driver emerging from a driveway. The driver, Jeffrey David Meyn, who plead guilty to negligent homicide, was simply going straight along the main road; he was said to have just passed through a yellow-light (which is perfectly legal) when he struck the victim’s vehicle as it emerged from a driveway on Northern Ave just west of the intersection of Northern Ave and 12th St, Phoenix on June 25, 2012 (almost two years ago!).

The news story wraps up by saying “Meyn had no criminal history prior to the accident”. So why neg hom? That is a fairly big deal and it’s most definitley not the norm for a “car accident”; it’s a class 4 felony, though the article specifically noted the plea is to a “non-dangerous”; which is significant because dangerous felonies have stiff mandatory sentences, but non-dangerous means the entire sentence can be suspended. The article also states the driver faces “faces a minimum of one year in prison” — this is just not true (unless there’s something somehow in the plea deal — which apparently was the case); Any or all of the sentence can be suspended, and often is, as we’ve seen with hit-and-run drivers

Maricopa County Superior Court case CR2012-010276, direct link to minutes.

[Update: The sentencing minute is now available; the defendant got something like 1.5years in prison, his drivers license was revoked, and this odd/curious statement was in there “The Court recommends to the Department of Corrections that Defendant be placed in a DUI facility”. Perhaps that implies some sort of minimum security? (Just a guess?). I also wonder why it specifically says “Mitigated”, yet he received 1.5 year; the mitigated sentence for a class 4 felony is 1 year. I think it’s good his license was revoked, that said It’s not clear to me what the effect of revoking a license really is — I mean when can he get it back? There seems to be no period involved, a la hit-and-run; i.e. I would imagine he can apply immediately (upon release)]

My GUESS after checking Arizona Court records, is the driver apparently has a string of speeding tickets; and that is why the prosecutor brought the charges– if so hooray for Maricopa County County Attorney’s office. The article says absolutely nothing about this, the only hint is “Meyn appeared to be speeding through the intersection before the light could change” [unlike the color of the light, which Meyn says was yellow, apparently the investigators have speed data which may have contributed to the charging decision]

Phoenix driver pleads guilty in fatal 2012 car <a-word deleted> 

please say #crashnotaccident!! The article ends with a typo; “next hearing is scheduled for Feb. 27” — they mean March.

Prior bad acts?

But would the defendant’s previous driving history even be admissible were there to be a trial? With the guilty plea, we can’t know for sure. The concept, from wikipedia, is that: “In the law of evidence, similar fact evidence (or the similar fact principle) establishes the conditions under which factual evidence of past misconduct of accused can be admitted at trial for the purpose of inferring that the accused committed the misconduct at issue”. Pelkey “the Explainer” had a very enlightening column about the rules of evidence involving admissibility of  so-called “prior bad acts”, federal rule 404(B), and so forth.

How this applies to Arizona is explained in some detail in a myazbar article written by the Hon. Robert L. Gottsfield… is referred to as the Huddleson/Atwood test; “Arizona has adopted the four-part test for the admission of other act evidence as set forth by the United States Supreme Court in Huddleston v. United States, in both criminal and civil cases…”

Arizona Evidence Rule 404(b) states as follows (my emphasis added):

Evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts is not admissible to prove the character of a person in order to show action in conformity therewith. It may, however, be admissible for other purposes, such as proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake or accident.

One can assume the defendant’s position that this was nothing more than a tragic accident; while we can hear the prosecutor intoning “ladies and gentleman of the jury… this was NO ACCIDENT”.

Restitution

I don’t know how that all works, but this case has dozens of minute entries relating to wrangling over amount of restitution. A 12/29/2016 entry states an amount of $960,000 for lost wages was correct. Coincidentally, the AZ Republic ran an in-depth article about the $1M the explains the restitution (versus, e.g. a Wrongful Death -type judgement. Restitution, apparently, is not dischargable through bankruptcy; while a wrongful civil judgement is). Another note is the pitifully low amount of insurance the driver carried, just $15,000, AZ’s minimum (which is also pitiful, but I digress). Meyn was, according to the article, pulling down $200K/year and he carries $15K in liability?

Also sad is the Meyn still clinging to the a-word, the article closes with his quote “But the bottom line… is it was a car accident”.

Don’t be thrown off by the title of the newspaper article Actually after reading the Court of Appeals case (linked below), i see now that the sticky wicket was the victim’s counsel was being prevented from introducing evidence at the restitution hearing (e.g. if i understand correctly, the forensic accounting of the victim’s future earning potential) : A collision, a death and a lawyer’s quest to change Arizona’s restitution law The change in the law refers to the right of a victim to be represented and introduce evidence at a restitution hearing, it wouldn’t have prevented any particular restitution judgement.

The article refers to a Court of Appeals ruling LINDSAY R. v. Cohen, 343 P. 3d 435 – Ariz: Court of Appeals, 1st Div. 2015 that has a lot of interesting boiler-plate regarding the role of a prosecutor. The victim’s family “lost” the ruling; but then he (the victim’s father-in-law, who is an attorney and obviously well-connected) got law  subsequently changed in early 2016. HB2376 52nd Second Regular legislature, added section 13-4437(E) and 8-416(E). The changes simply guarantee the victim’s right to present (and be represented) at any restitution hearing.

 

One thought on “Phoenix driver pleads guilty in fatal 2012 car a-word”

  1. It seems that the majority of your information came from the article from the Republic, which you shared. Unfortunately, all of the information presented in the article was from the defendant’s attorney and only includes information relevant to their case. The driver did have a history of speeding violations (many, many speeding violations). However, you were correct in stating that this would not have been admissible in a criminal case if he had gone to trial. What would have been presented in the event that the case had gone to trial was the data recorded indicating that the defendant’s truck was traveling at a speed significantly over the posted speed limit. In addition, testimony from the majority of witnesses indicated that the light was not yellow, but red. In fact, one of the witnesses that was already stopped at the red light, indicated that the defendant “Shot passed” them “like a bullet”. It was this evidence, not the defendant’s driving history, that probably influenced the defendant to plead guilty. The article was correct in stating that he faced a minimum of one year in prison. That was part of the plea arrangement.
    Just wanted to shed some light.

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