Driver charged w/hit-and-run in Chandler ped fatality

photo: MSCO
Hit-and-run suspect Wanda House. photo: MSCO

[UPDATES plea deal January 2017, then imprisoned due to probation violation Sept 2017]

Driver Wanda Snow House has been charged with hit-and-run in connection with the death of a pedestrian. According to police she “was driving in a bicycle lane on Dobson Road near West Canyon Way on Jan. 14 2015 when she hit a pedestrian, identified as Frances Johnston”. Continue reading “Driver charged w/hit-and-run in Chandler ped fatality”

PCSO: 1 killed in fiery crash; driver tried to bribe Pinal deputies

 

Pinal County investigators said a 21-year-old man was driving this car when it wrecked and killed a 27-year-old woman who was trapped inside. (Photo: Pinal County Sheriff's Office)
Pinal County investigators said a 21-year-old man was driving this car when it wrecked and killed a 27-year-old woman who was trapped inside. (Photo: Pinal County Sheriff’s Office)

That looks like it used to be a very fast car…. Pinal County investigators think alcohol might have been involved (incident Sunday? 3/1/2015 11:26p):

 

 

 

 

Continue reading “PCSO: 1 killed in fiery crash; driver tried to bribe Pinal deputies”

Phoenix fire dispatcher dies after I-17 wrong-way crash

[ Wrong-way driver Stephen B Martin has pleaded not guilty in early February to all charges including felony counts for 2nd Degree Murder, several endangerment, along with some minor marijuana-related charges. CR-2015104415 (minutes). “Martin’s blood-alcohol content was 0.313 percent when a sample was taken at the hospital, records show” ]

Victim: Megan Lange, 26/F  southbound on I-17 in central Phoenix ~ 1AM (Tuesday 1/27/2015) was killed by wrong-way driver, who police suspect was impaired. Then today (thursday) it was in news: “A hospital lab analysis of Martin’s blood sample had a blood-alcohol content level of 0.313 percent, nearly four times the state’s legal limit of 0.08 percent, a DPS officer said” Continue reading “Phoenix fire dispatcher dies after I-17 wrong-way crash”

Wrong Way driver from May freeway fatalities pleads not guilty

third-wrongwaywreckWrong-way driver Patricia Murphy who caused crash with two fatalities on loop 202 in May 18, 2014 has plead not guilty to all charges including two counts of 2nd degree murder. Police say in June that Murphy “had a blood-alcohol content of 0.18, more than twice the legal limit. A urine test showed Murphy also tested positive for opiates and benzodiazepine” Continue reading “Wrong Way driver from May freeway fatalities pleads not guilty”

Cyclist dead in Ahwatukee car wreck

vehicle
photo credit: ourhtn.com

[UPDATE; criminal case driver sentenced to 6.5 years prison, see below]

[There have been a couple recent items of interest documented at ourhtn.com, on Nov 29 there was a MV crash at intersection, and on Dec 1 a mobile speed trailer was set up] Continue reading “Cyclist dead in Ahwatukee car wreck”

Driver Convicted: Another ped gets whacked on Phoenix SIDEWALK

alfaRomeoHitAndRunPhoenix
[Jan 2016: case finally resolved, defendant/driver convicted and sentenced, see below.] Woman walking on the sidewalk in broad daylight killed by a hit-and-runner, Sunday March 3, 2013. I say ‘another’ because it was only about a week ago another unforunate soul was hit just standin-on-the-corner; fortunately she wasn’t killed.  Seriously, how often does this happen? Continue reading “Driver Convicted: Another ped gets whacked on Phoenix SIDEWALK”

Crash charge weighed vs. deputy

The aftermath of fatal collision

[ Update mid-June — well the “verdict” is in and Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery has announced there will be no charges filed. Here is the azcentral news story. I am more aligned with columnist Robert’s thinking; than I am with Montini… though there is still an undeniable appearance of impropriety on County Attorney Montgomery’s part. In summary, Roberts points out that the prosector’s office lets anybody and everybody off the hook (except when impaired); Montini insists it’s simply political. I believe the city of Glendale certainly has enough evidence to charge Pearce with criminal speeding — if they choose to. That would be largely symbolic but would still require the defendant to appear before the court. ] Continue reading “Crash charge weighed vs. deputy”

3 year-old squashed to death in crosswalk

tundra-stroller
Drivers operating pickups and other so-called “light trucks and vans” account for a disproportionate amount of pedestrian fatalities; but nobody seems to care…

3 year-old Anthony Meade was squashed to death in crosswalk at 20th and Camelback Rd, Phoenix on 12/4/2013 ~ 7:30PM. The driver (whose name apparently has not been released and is referred to only as a 26-year-old) was driving a 2009 Toyota Tundra, a large pickup…

All parties were northbound; the driver making a left from 20th Street onto Camelback, and the peds were crossing Camelback at the intersection. Continue reading “3 year-old squashed to death in crosswalk”

Oft-delayed Foshee Trial to begin

[Link to all case minutes for CR2009154132;  Direct link to case on Maricopa Co Superior Court ]

[ The old format, the one linked thru caselookup, no longer works and throws  a 500/internal server error. e.g: www.courtminutes.maricopa.gov/scripts/meeds/qreturn.asp?casenumber=CR2009154132 ]

[SENTENCING finally actually happened 4/18/2012; the matter is finally (hopefully) put to rest.  According to my correspondent, Foshee received 10.5 years for manslaughter 6 years each on the endangerment, 22.5 years, but to be served concurrently so 10 1/2 years, TOTAL, which is the presumptive sentence for manslaughter all by itself, a dangerous class 2 felony (see 28-704). Off-hand, not knowing all details and back-story — this seems too light given the hit-and-run, the other aggravating circumstances, the prior DUI conviction, and the (I presume) rejection of a plea deal. In short, it seems to me the justice system is sending many wrong signals here, for example it appears that, once again, there is no penalty whatsoever for hitting-and-running. You can read the sentencing case minute here. ]

[Updates from case minutes 3/28/2012: The motion for a new trial has been DENIED.  And separately, on the Defendant’s Motion, the defendant has been found to be indigent. I assume this has something to do with lawyer’s fees. Sentencing remains scheduled for 4/6/2012]

[Sentencing Update; 3/23/2012 — to the surprise of probably no one, sentencing did not occur as scheduled. The defense has filed a motion for new trial (here is the case minute, but it doesn’t explain anything), the prosecution has until 3/23 to respond. The sentencing has be re-scheduled for 4/6/2012]

[breaking news update: 2/14/2012 — guilty on all counts / and all counts are “dangerous”; the jury in a seperate phase found the charge to be aggravated (will make sentencing, scheduled for March 23, harsher). Man guilty of manslaughter in bicyclist’s death, Jim Walsh. Here is the verdict case minute, it is quite detailed ]

The manslaughter trial stemming from an incident where a cyclist was killed in August of 2009 is actually going to trial 1/30/2012 after many delays — yes, that was almost two and half years ago!

My correspondent told me that jury selection did begin on Monday.

According to police, issued to the media, at the time:

  • A WB driver crossed over into the EB lane and collided head-on and killed Russell Jenkins
  • “The rider…  had a working headlight on his bike”
  • “The surviving cyclists … reported that Foshee had a strong odor of alcohol”
  • “The driver fled the scene, but the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Traffic Unit later arrested Gary Foshe [Foshee], 53”
  • “two deputies reported that Foshee had a strong odor of alcohol and several signs of intoxication”

The defendant’s prior DUI conviction, as well as his blood test results are likely to be key factors. On the other hand, the issue of the victim’s posthumous blood test results is, from what i can tell, irrelevant because it did not affect the crash in any way.

[UPDATE added August 2014; i was unaware that the AZ supreme court publicaccess lookup does NOT include any Maricopa County Justice Courts. Searching justice courts turns up more brushes with the law; though the outcomes aren’t searchable (you would have to call the court), including a criminal traffic violation filed in San Tan Justice Court in March of 2010 where he was represented by the same attorney that handled his manslaughter case]

Much more background here and here.

The Criminal Case

Superior court criminal docket, case number CR2009-154132. , or lookup via supremecourt.az.gov

According to case minute entry “Defendant needs additional time for expert to complete investigation and make a complete expert opinion”; which was granted resetting the trial for 07/26/2010…. oops, more delays, now showing another conference for 1/4/2011 and the “new last day” is 2/10/2011. The minute entry from 9/28/2010 “regarding the constitutionality of A.R.S. § 12-2203“, a statute which relates to the Admissibility of expert opinion testimony. hmmm….

The trial has been reset AGAIN, as of the case minute entry from 3/14, the trial is set to begin 3/28/2011. This case has more minute entries and notations than I’ve ever see. The DPS criminologist is Herlinda Graham, and apparently the defense’s expert witness is Chester Flaxmayer.  See, e.g. “AACJ 23rd Annual Seminar on Aggressive Defense of the Accused Impaired Driver”, or phillipslaw.com.

Pick up trial coverage (and eventual outcome) here.

The Court of Appeal’s decision

In an unpublished Memorandum Decision; Arizona v. Foshee,  No. 1 CA-CR 12-0249 filed 1/30/2014 The Arizona Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s findings. Foshee asserted three errors

  1. Foshee contends the trial court erred when it granted the
    State’s motion to exclude evidence of methamphetamine in the decedent’s system: “At a pretrial hearing on the State’s motion to exclude, a forensic toxicologist testified there were ‘trace’ amounts of methamphetamine and one of its metabolites in the decedent’s blood. The amount present was similar to that one would find in a person who had taken a medically prescribed form of methamphetamine for weight loss. Further, the decedent ingested the methamphetamine at least six hours before his death. The toxicologist testified that due to the amount of methamphetamine in the decedent’s system and the amount of time that had passed since its ingestion, the decedent was not impaired at the time of the incident.” Furthermore “there is nothing in the testimony of the two witnesses he (Foshee) identifies to even hint the decedent was negligent, let alone impaired” [see footnote]
  2. Foshee asserts the trial court erred when it allowed an expert
    witness to testify that Foshee’s blood alcohol concentration (“BAC”) two hours after the incident was between .144 and .194. The defense’s expert disagree; however both experts were permitted to testify — allowing to the jury to decide that matter of fact.
  3. Foshee argues the trial court erred when it admitted evidence of his prior conviction for driving under the influence.

The CoA found no error.

FACTS OF THE CASE

Foshee left a bar sometime before 2:00 a.m. on the morning
of August 15, 2009 after the bar refused to serve him further and security personnel asked him to leave. At some point after he left the bar, Foshee drove his pickup truck east on a two-lane road. Ahead of Foshee on that same road, three men on bicycles rode west on and/or near the shoulder of the westbound lane. The decedent and at least one of the other cyclists had lights on their bicycles.
Shortly after 2:00 a.m., Foshee drove east in the westbound
lane to overtake and pass another eastbound vehicle. Once he passed the vehicle, Foshee drove down the center of the road. Foshee then moved into the westbound lane again, possibly to attempt to pass another eastbound vehicle. Regardless of the reason, Foshee drove towards the three cyclists as they rode west on or near the shoulder of the westbound lane. At some point in the sequence of events, Foshee swerved left and then right. Two of the cyclists turned right to avoid being struck by Foshee’s truck. The decedent, however, apparently turned left. Foshee struck the decedent with the right front corner of his truck…

One thing not present in the FACTS recited is any mention the incident was a hit-and-run as was stated by police in the media.

PCR (Post Conviction Relief)

[Updates Aug 2014: some PCR (post conv relief) line items popped up. 8/12/2014 minute refers to a “Rule 32” proceeding; appears to have a public defender appointed to prepare pcr stuff]

From what i can tell from case minute 02/13/2015 all possible PCR has been exhausted.

Footnotes

On the inadmissibility of victim’s impairment as unduly prejudicial under Rule 403 see

  • State v. Krantz, 174 Ariz. 211, 213, 848 P.2d 296, 298
    (App. 1992) (excluding the victim’s alleged use of methamphetamine), which was cited in the Foshee Court of Apeals decision, above. But, for contrast, see also:
  • the unpublished State v. Aguilera (victim’s BAC should have been admitted). In this case the drunk driver’s aggravated assault conviction was tossed; the defendant asserted the victim was driving his motorcycle too slowly, and that the motorcycle’s taillight was “weak”; and so it was okay to drive into the back of the motorcyclist. There were also three other interesting discussions, that weren’t relevant to the 403 issue: failure to instruct the jury on a) causation, b) superceding causation, and c) lesser included offense. [Since inquiring minds want to know… Aguilera ultimately plead guilty in a deal to non-dangerous agg assault, see case minutes for CR2007008373, 1/14/2011 (I can’t find the sentencing minute? the last case minute implies he did go to prison. I would think the non-dangerous classification would have yielded a suspended sentence / probation)]

Bad Drivers and friendsofcalholman.com

Looking North
Looking North

(motorist) Cal Holman was killed in a horrific traffic collision in 2007 involving very high speeds and alleged street racing. Going on 5 years later a lot has and continues to happen, the two other drivers, Van Brakel and Aronica, have eventually plead guilty to certain crimes, Van Brakel going to prison for manslaughter. Aronica received probation, and subsequently  requested it be reduced, but that apparently was denied.

The site friendsofcalholman.com is doing, and has done an excellent job of making court documents available; such as the plea agreements. Van Brakel’s 5 year sentence was reduced to below 3 years actual  both by the 1 day for every 7 served (that’s normal; it where the “85%” figure comes from); but also apparently because of  “over 2 years credit because he was out on bail while the criminal hearings were going on“. How does that work? Being out on bail somehow counts as the same as being incarcerated? [see suggestion in comment below that this may have been erroneously calculated] This is criminal case CR2008-031157  (minutes) (which i could only find by searching Maricopa County Superior directly) — and here is Van Brakel’s (who is Party 001) 9/16/2011 sentencing minute “5 year(s) from 09/16/2011; Presentence Incarceration Credit: 487 day(s); Presumptive”. Note that this is “non-dangerous” manslaughter — sick joke. p.s. the way sentencing math works apparently is: 85% (assuming he got the most time off) of 5 years is 1551 days minus the 487 leaves 1064 (just under 3 years).

Van Brakel’s pre-sentence credit of 487 days was due to him being incarcerated immediately (i guess) after his initial sentencing in 2010.

Here is Aronica’s 5/18/2010 sentencing minute of probation; pleading guilty to two counts of endangerment which is, like Van Brakel’s manslaughter, designated as a “non-dangerous” crime.

On a larger scope, they have exposed these two men’s driving history; again something we rarely get to see. According to friendsofcalholman the two,

Van Brakel was driving an AMG Mercedes, after hitting Cal Holman his car continued 75 feet past the intersection. Van Brakel hit first on the passenger side. He did not sustain any injuries in the crash…  Since 2004 there have been 7 tickets for various moving violations. Driving 55 in a 35 zone, 67 in a 40 zone, and failing to yield in a cross walk are a sample of his driving record… Van Brakel has several previous driving violations. One ticket in 2004, was for doing 120 miles per hour in a 75 miles per hour zone. [link]

and the other:

Aronica’s Mustang flipped on impact and landed in the ditch on the side of Scottsdale … Aronica was injured with a broken arm and his passenger had minor cuts…. Since 2002 Aronica has had 13 citations. On December 3rd, less than four weeks prior to the accident where he hit and killed Cal Holman, he was cited for doing 88 miles per hour in a 60 miles per hour zone. This was in Texas while he was traveling to Arizona… Other citations include speeding. In Virginia speeding 84 in a 65 zone, in Florida traveling 20-29 miles per hour over the posted speed, again in Virginia speeding 79 in a 65 zone, in Maryland he had four speeding violations, and in Michigan he has 3 violations for speeding including a careless driving and a 78 in a 55 zone. [link]

This really makes me wonder how such repeated dangerous driving behavior can be tolerated — why weren’t their licenses suspended or revoked before they killed somebody? Traffic collisions, even after a marked decline, continue to be a leading cause of death for Americans. Who’s minding the store?

Driver who killed Tucson bicyclist given 33 years

Historical incident. Backdated.

9/4/2011  ~ 900am. victim: Albert Eugene Brack was killed riding his bicycle east on Escalante Road near the intersection of S Calexico Avenue, Tucson.

Some other info on bicycletucson.com Continue reading “Driver who killed Tucson bicyclist given 33 years”

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…” Continue reading “Christmas Eve ’07 crash trial, verdict: guilty”

Drunken driver Sentenced in Cop’s Death

Salvador Vivas-Diaz was sentenced to the maximum of 16 years in prison after being found guilty of manslaughter after driving drunk and hitting Phoenix PD Officer Shane Figueroa head-on. The officer was responding to a call at the time.

Traffic collisions, not, say, guns, are the leading cause of line-of-duty deaths of police officers. See: More Police Killed by Traffic than Guns.

Negligent driver who killed 5 gets 1-year sentence

At this stage, with the investigation into Allen Johnson’s death still pending — there is understandably a lot of conjecture regarding what charges may be brought, or not brought, as the case may be.

I’ve seen this movie before, and the outcome is (almost) always the same — there are only two things that (reliably) bring criminal charges. They are DUI and leaving the scene.

If the exception proves the rule, and I think it does, take a deep breath and read the results of this quintuple homicide. This case gives one answer to the question: exactly what can a negligent driver do (besides the two aforementioned things) to get indicted for murder?

Laurie Roberts did a great job of bringing this story to light in her column (alternately see Laurie’s blog and entry on the same subject and the aftermath). A news story ran in the East Valley Tribune.

Roberts writes: “Then he did the smartest thing he could do. He hired Larry Kazan, the Valley’s go-to attorney for bad drivers – the ones who can afford him, that is”

The synopsis is, in case the links to those stories disappear: Robert Logan Myers III plead guilty to five counts of Neg Hom stemming from a collision where he was speeding and ran a red light colliding with a left-turner. In the deal where he got 1 year in jail (the nominal sentence would be 5 time 2.5 years), work release for 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, payment of restitution of about $451,000, 4 years of probation. No mention of his driver’s license — of course how would he get back and forth from jail every day without one?!

The outcome of this, albeit highly unusual prosection, makes me wonder if pursuing criminal charges, heretofore what I considered the “holy grail” of holding someone responsible is the way to go. There must be a better way. ??