Horrific Crash kills 4 Motorcyclists

It was reported on 8/27/2011 that Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery will retry Michael Jakscht. The first trial ended with a hung-jury mistrial.
There’s a new trial date set for June 6, 2012

The driver of a heavy commercial dump truck piled into a group of motorcyclists who were stopped at a red light; reportedly he was distracted.

Phoenix Public Safety Manager Jack Harris described the scene “I have never seen such a horrific accident involving so many motorcycles,”

The crash 3/25/2010 at Carefree Highway and 27th way, Phoenix, initially killed 3, a fourth died a few days later. Several were seriously injured, including a Phoenix Fire Captain in critical condition.

Today the Arizona Republic is reporting in a 3/27/2010 story that the driver has a string of infractions, many of which sound like technical/equipment-related, and several of them were dismissed. However, the driver has an outstanding citation for failure to control about two weeks ago in Scottsdale, related to an (apparently minor) collision. These cases pop up on a search of the Arizona Supreme Court case lookup. But strangely, the reporter seems to be unaware of additional actions in Maricopa Justice Court, including one just dated just a couple of days before the huge crash. (search on Michael Jakscht)

The investigation is still ongoing, but with no hints of impairment the likely outcome, barring a surprise, will be a traffic ticket and no criminal charges.

The Surprise

Driver in fatal Phoenix motorcycle crash booked on 4 manslaughter counts, 4/06/2010 & Bond for driver in fatal motorcycle crash set at $1 million, 4/07/2010, AZ Republic.

Phoenix police arrested Jakscht on suspicion of driving under the influence of methamphetamine. Continue reading “Horrific Crash kills 4 Motorcyclists”

Update on Van Brakel’s manslaughter sentence

There is an update to the who-is-at-fault-in-a-left-turn-collision story from 2007 where former state representative Cal Holman was killed while making a left turn at an intersection and was struck by two motorists who were criminally-speeding, and appeared to be racing.

One motorist, Travis Aronica, plead to endangerment and got probabtion.

The other motorist, Robert Van Brakel, was found guilty of manslaughter and received a five year sentence (which seems light to me, i thought the presumptive for manslaughter is 10.5 years?). Van Brakel (who i presume, is currently imprisoned?) won a review of his sentence by a different judge, claiming improprieties by the sentencing judge. He is scheduled to be re-sentenced “from scratch” by a different judge; because of re-sentencing rules it is extremely unlikely he would draw more than the original 5 years. This is currently scheduled for 8/12/2011.

As Laurie Roberts put it in her July 27, 2011 column “One of the racers gets probation. The other gets five years in prison. Really, that’s what they got… Both men had lousy driving records and both were charged with manslaughter.”

You can also read about the case at friendsofcalholman.com , but be careful because reading that is what got Judge Ryan “in trouble”.

There a newer update at bad-drivers-and-friendsofcalholman-com — Van Brakel was released somehow in 2014.

 

Are Cars Dangerous?

Superhuman-sized objects moving at superhuman speeds are dangerous. Inherently. But who bears this danger? Motorist liability insurance is one supposed motivator; in theory motorists are supposed to bear the cost of the risks they are inflicting on others, but has many limitations (see e.g. The Disneyland Model). In reality this risk-spreading ends up socializing the costs of driving — paid for by others, subsidized, also called an externality. Thus we get more driving, because it is artificially cheap, and more traffic death and destruction.

It is worth pointing out to nervous cyclists that the large majority of traffic death and destruction is done by drivers of automobiles to other motorists (see, e.g. the chart here). This is to be expected, of course, since the large majority of traffic is motoring.

Here are a couple of  recent, local incidents… out of control “accidents” all —

Girl critically injured, was standing on the sidewalk, May 6, 2011: Deette Lynn Perry, 54, was arrested Friday after she was discharged from the hospital, where she had been admitted following the May 6 incident, Sgt. Steve Martos of the Phoenix Police Department said. Perry was in a 2004 Nissan Altima near Thomas Road and 23rd Avenue when she drove onto the sidewalk and struck a 17-year-old girl, Martos said. Police suspect Perry was impaired by drugs, Martos said. The girl suffered a fractured pelvis and severe head injuries, Martos said.

Another:

Tourist killed at Phoenix intersection The Arizona Republic, Glen Creno – Aug. 19, 2010

An Australian tourist crossing a Phoenix street was killed late Tuesday when a sport-utility vehicle slammed into him, authorities said Wednesday…The SUV was moving so fast the victim was dismembered by the impact. Witnesses told police the vehicle apparently ran a red light…Ramzy Khalil, 29, of New South Wales, Continue reading “Are Cars Dangerous?”

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”

Who is at fault in a left-turn collision?

A high profile collision involving a school bus turning left at a signal, still under investigation — the news article doesn’t let on who the police believe is responsible for the collision that killed two motorists. The collision occurred in Phoenix at Union Hills Drive, and 12th Street. The speed of the car was reportedly excessive. The bus was turning left, and the car was straight-through; this is a signalized intersection; the news story doesn’t give any indication of the status of the signal. Continue reading “Who is at fault in a left-turn collision?”

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. ??

28-672 in the news

[ There have been many changes to this law, most recently in 2018, see history, below]

Prosecutors routinely decline to prosecute negligent drivers who kill/injure. Nearly without exception, they will only seek homicide (i.e. negligent homicide, or manslaughter) / aggravated assault charges if the driver is impaired. Short of that, the hurdle, in the minds of prosecutors, is very very high.

Arizona has no vehicular homicide law, it does however since 1998 have a law, §28-672, ” Causing serious physical injury or death by a moving violation” (and some companion laws 28-675 and 6 which work in an analogous fashion). The catch is that in order to be charged with 28-672, the driver must have been engaging in one or more of a specific list of infractions. For example, running a red light. Continue reading “28-672 in the news”

Pecos Death Trap?

UPDATE SEP 22,2010: AFN reports that that there was an injury wreck at 32nd and Pecos resulting from a “bad left”. The 17 y.o. EB driver turned left into the path of the WB driver, who was injured “seriously but not life threatening”. Bad lefts were the cause of both a 2003 fatality and a 2007 very serious injuries; both of those were at 40th and Pecos. Continue reading “Pecos Death Trap?”

Driver arrested in quintuple(!) fatality — excessive speed and red-light-running alledged

A driver was arrested on suspicion of five counts of manslaughter (see homicide categories) and 3 aggravated assaults. What makes this unusual is the absence of suspicion of DUI. We shall see what the prosecutor does with it. This is a tantalizing comment: “data recorded when the truck’s airbags deployed substantiated detectives’ findings that Myers was driving at ‘an excessive speed,’ “. Data recorder? We (the public) often hear that these sorts of crashes are tragedies but not crimes — because the prosecutor claims that they can’t prove anything. Continue reading “Driver arrested in quintuple(!) fatality — excessive speed and red-light-running alledged”

Double Jeopardy and Flawed Logic

ARS §28-1592 specifies the time limit for bringing a civil traffic violation. Sort of like the “statute of limitations” for traffic tickets. The normal limit is 60/90 days, but for alleged violations when there is a wreck and investigation the limit is 180 days, and extends to a full year if a fatality is involved.

The rub is that police (cities? jurisdictions?) won’t issue complaints for a traffic violation if there is any sort of ongoing investigation, an incipient neg hom/manslaughter charge for example… and these things do seem like they can drag on forever. They appear to do this in an overabundance of caution — claiming “double jeopardy” issues. As far as I can tell there can be no double jeopardy between civil and criminal.

The end result is that drivers who would clearly be found responsible for a traffic infraction frequently end up getting off scot free; when the criminal case falls through for whatever reason. See e.g. Kandas. Or sometimes it is just an oversight on the part of police. It seems clear that the driver responsible for the Eades fatality could have / should have been cited for §28-701 “failure to control”.

Talk about getting away with murder…

Yet police didn’t confiscate her driver’s license. Had this been a DUI case, Sgt. Joel Tranter told me, they would have taken it and notified the state Motor Vehicle Division so it could administratively suspend Gilbert’s license. But police don’t pursue DUI charges in manslaughter cases, for fear of jeopardizing the more serious charges.

“The (administrative suspension) law does not apply to homicide or aggravated assault cases because those are criminal,” Tranter explained. “They aren’t traffic investigations.”

In other words, if you drive drunk, you lose your license. But if you drive drunk and kill someone, you can keep driving.

Hentoff [the victim’s family’s attorney] calls the police department’s interpretation of the law “absolutely flawed logic.”

Driver in DUI-death case still at the wheel, Laurie Roberts, The Arizona Republic. Aug. 25, 2007

We’ve heard this double jeopardy business before from the police department, Continue reading “Double Jeopardy and Flawed Logic”