The Law is An Ass (TV, Courts & Just The Facts)
Meanwhile Dateline NBC/Court TV had a segment asking “was it an accident or vehicular homicide”. The short answer is that the jury decided homicide and the judge vacated the jury’s decision. Based on the limited testimony available from the broadcast, I’d go with the jury.
The judge decided that if a police car was parked at the scene and witnessed the incident, the driver would not have gotten a ticket for reckless driving. Two comments apply. He would have gotten a ticket for blowing the stop sign! Maybe, he would have gotten a ticket for reckless driving, if judges would enforce the law!
But was the jury’s decision in accordance with the facts? Without having seen the segment, you’re likely to be in over your head, but for those who saw it here goes. The incident took place at the intersection of two two-lane roads at right angles. Designate them North-South and East-West. A woman with a baby stroller was walking in the westbound lane, west of the intersection. The driver was northbound to the intersection and then turned left (westbound). He struck the woman. Her baby survived.
The issue was did he blow the stop sign as a Boy Racer or did he stop with his vision obscured by a bush at the corner plus custom instruments added to the roof post at the side of the windshield. The crux of the issue was over the speed of the car at time of impact. The police established that the maximum speed the car could achieve from a stop at the sign was 12-14 mph. Taking the turn at maximum speed they got a test result of 25-28 mph (I’m working from memory so assume the figures are approximations). The defense’s expert witness testified that the collision took place at 16-23 mph. The defense seemed outraged that anyone could find their client guilty when the speed was not in the 25-28 mph range. Hey lawyer, you ever hear of the brake! Once our Boy Racer got around the bush, he would naturally react to someone in the road by lifting off the throttle and going for the brake. Ergo, a collision speed less than the maximum. Duh! Also note that the impact speed is greater than the maximum speed the car is capable of attaining under full throttle from a dead stop. “Sudden Acceleration” redux.
And look at the apex point and turning radius. Boy Racer uses the south-west curb as his apex. He has already turned 45 degrees to the left when he reaches the apex. By contrast, Boy Good Driver stops at the line. He still has to turn 90 degrees. This ensures that he must end up further north than Boy Racer would. Since the diagram indicates that the stroller impacted the right front fender and the woman hit the windshield, we have evidence that the car was toward the centerline of E-W, whereas it would be fully in the west lane if the car had stopped. The jury got it right. Why not you Judge!