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Justice served - DWI driver who killed a girl found guilty of 2nd degree murder

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Justice served - DWI driver who killed a girl found guilty of 2nd degree murder

Old 10-17-06, 11:19 PM
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Justice served - DWI driver who killed a girl found guilty of 2nd degree murder

this has been a local story here. in one of the suburbs of NYC, the county DA has decided to prosecute all DWI's where someone is killed on murder charges. Jury just returned a guilty verdict setting a nice precedent.

about time someone got serious about drinking and driving

one thing to drive after having a drink or two a few hours prior, but it should be criminal to do so at a BAC of .28

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/17/ny...=1&oref=slogin

Driver Found Guilty of Murder in L.I. Drunken Crash
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) -- A man who drove the wrong way down a highway following a night of heavy drinking, slamming head-on into a wedding limousine and killing the chauffeur and a 7-year-old flower girl, was convicted Tuesday of two counts of murder.

Martin Heidgen, 25, was charged with murder -- a rarity in driving-while-intoxicated fatal crashes -- after prosecutors said he showed a "depraved indifference to human life" by ignoring drivers on the Long Island highway who flashed their headlights and honked their horns as he drove into traffic.

A scream echoed through the courtroom as the murder conviction was read, with several of the jurors in tears as the slain girl's mother collapsed sobbing into her weeping husband's arms. The verdict followed a gut-wrenching, five-week trial that was filled with gruesome images and testimony.

Jennifer Flynn, who testified about holding daughter Katie's decapitated head immediately after the wreck, praised the jury for its decision.

"It was the right verdict," she said. "I'm happy for that."

Jurors, who deliberated for five days, also saw a horrifying video from the limousine's surveillance camera that showed Heidgen's pickup truck barreling toward the car moments before the crash. It ended with the metal-on-metal crunch of the two vehicles colliding.

Prosecutors will ask for the maximum of 25 years to life at the Nov. 20 sentencing for Heidgen, who sat stoically through the verdict. Jurors had a choice of convicting him on the lesser charge of second-degree manslaughter, which carries up to 15 years in prison.

Family members of the limo driver also were pleased with the verdict.

"Thank God," said Keith Rabinowitz, son of the dead limo driver. "It's about time. I'm glad that he was prosecuted and the truth came out."

Prosecutors estimated that Heidgen, of Valley Stream, had at least 14 drinks before getting behind the wheel; his blood-alcohol level, 0.28, was more than three times the legal limit in New York state, 0.08.

Prosecutors alleged he drove his pickup truck more than 2 miles north in the southbound lanes of the divided highway before ramming head-on into the limousine heading home from a family wedding in July 2005. They contended Heidgen never tried to stop and turned slightly toward the limousine in the seconds before the crash.

Katie Flynn and limousine driver Stanley Rabinowitz, 59, were killed. Five other members of the Flynn family were injured.

The jury also convicted Heidgen of assault and driving while intoxicated.

Juror Michael DeRita said deliberations became "pretty fierce." He said there was "a lot of yelling, screaming; it came close to physical violence," but ultimately they agreed unanimously. He said jurors were crying when they returned to deliver the verdict because of the emotional release, but he blamed Heidgen.

"He voluntarily was intoxicated," DeRita said. "He got into the car, he turned the key, he drove, he turned around, he avoided stimuli to make him get out of the way. It wasn't an accident because he brought this on himself and he caused the death of two people."

In closing arguments, Heidgen's defense attorney called the murder charge "extreme" and suggested jurors return a guilty verdict on a lesser count of criminally negligent homicide, which carries a four-year prison term.

Stephen LaMagna complained that prosecutors held Heidgen to the "same standard as a cold-blooded murderer" but insisted, "this is a kid who drank too much and got lost on the way home." He said after the verdict that he intended to appeal and was confident the murder conviction would be overturned.

Prosecutors said Heidgen drove directly at the limousine and cited statements he made to investigators hours after the crash in which he said he was in "self-destruct mode." LaMagna denied his client, who had recently moved to Long Island from Arkansas, was suicidal.

Several attendees at a party in Merrick, where Heidgen had been before the crash, said the defendant was laughing and dancing and showed no signs of being depressed.

A key piece of evidence for the prosecution was the brief video clip that captured the deadly crash from the limo camera.

Assistant District Attorney Maureen McCormick played the clip once during the trial and twice during her closing argument, and then jurors asked for it to be played for them four times more in succession while deliberating.

"This is the best piece of evidence -- it doesn't rely on assumptions or speculation," McCormick said in her closing argument.

During the trial, Kate's mother, whose family had hired the limousine for an hour-long trip home from Bayville after the wedding, testified that moments after the crash she heard her 6-year-old daughter, Grace, crying, but "I didn't hear Kate."

Then she "saw her head on the floor and there was hair over her face," she said. "I moved her, and it was just her head that was there, and I never saw her body."

She said she got out of the limousine and sat on a guardrail on the center median, clutching her daughter's remains as rescue workers helped the rest of the family: her mother, father, husband and other daughter.
Old 10-17-06, 11:25 PM
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I would love to see much harsher DWI laws.
Old 10-17-06, 11:58 PM
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In Illinois homicide is the normal charge for DUI offenders who cause a fatality. I hope more states do this.
Old 10-18-06, 12:02 AM
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Jennifer Flynn, who testified about holding daughter Katie's decapitated head immediately after the wreck
Damn, that's rough.
Old 10-18-06, 12:11 AM
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It's way past time that drunk drivers were held accountable for their actions. This verdict is a good thing, but man, that was a sad story about the little girl and her mother.
Old 10-18-06, 12:25 AM
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Horrific story. No real winners here.

BTW, the limo driver died too! How come there's no sympathy for him?
Old 10-18-06, 12:28 AM
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In MO, a first DUI carries less penalty than driving away from Gas stations without paying.
Old 10-18-06, 01:38 AM
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I would like to see something like:

1st offense- loss of license, big fine.

2nd offense- 5 year minimum sentence behind bars

3rd offense- 15 years min. sentence

4th offense- 50 year min. sentence
Old 10-18-06, 08:18 AM
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bballing - it only takes the 1st time to kill someone.
Old 10-18-06, 08:29 AM
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I would like to see DWI prosecuted with the additional charge of reckless endangerment with a deadly weapon in all cases. This would put it into the realm of a class D or E felony and carry 1 to 10 years incarceration right off the bat, even without the fuctard hitting someone.
Old 10-18-06, 08:40 AM
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"this is a kid who drank too much and got lost on the way home."

Yeah, and he also killed two people.


Glad the jury had the balls to convict him.
Old 10-18-06, 10:30 AM
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Originally Posted by bballing
I would like to see something like:

1st offense- loss of license, big fine.

2nd offense- 5 year minimum sentence behind bars

3rd offense- 15 years min. sentence

4th offense- 50 year min. sentence


So you would be cool if some asshat merely lost his liscence and was fined for killing someone you loved? Like pyro said, it only takes once to end a life.
Old 10-18-06, 10:52 AM
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Finally. I've been saying that DWI-vehicular homicide should be treated as 2nd-D murder since before I lost my father to a drunk driver. It is reckless conduct and should be treated as such under the law.

The drunk driver who killed my father and my aunt is getting out in late January. His total time served will have been about 11 months.
Old 10-18-06, 10:55 AM
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Originally Posted by Red Dog
Finally. I've been saying that DWI-vehicular homicide should be treated as 2nd-D murder since before I lost my father to a drunk driver. It is reckless conduct and should be treated as such under the law.

The drunk driver who killed my father and my aunt is getting out in late January. His total time served will have been about 11 months.
bc they need to make room for all of the drug offenders...

Freakin' ass backwards legal system.

-p
Old 10-18-06, 11:52 AM
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Not that I disagree this murder should get the same punishment as 2nd degree murder, but doesn't 2nd degree murder require proof of intent? I can see the murder intent to drive home after getting really drunk, but I don't see the intent of killing the limo driver and the poor kid.

I'm sorry to say this, but I see this case getting overturned on appeal simply because of the lack of proof of intent.
Old 10-18-06, 12:07 PM
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If the drunktard kills somebody, then it should be charged as "unlawful act manslaughter".
Old 10-18-06, 12:13 PM
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Originally Posted by cdollaz
Damn, that's rough.
I had to stop there. That image was too much for me to bear.
Old 10-18-06, 12:22 PM
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Originally Posted by bhk
In MO, a first DUI carries less penalty than driving away from Gas stations without paying.
When I was at school in the late '80s / early '90s in Missouri, you could still legally drink a beer while driving (though some townships had ordinances against it). That's since been overturned, I think.

Anyway, I am happy that this ruling happened. Say the person had gotton high on cocaine, grabbed a gun and shot the girl and the driver, there's no doubt that he would have been convicted of murder.
Old 10-18-06, 01:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Michael Corvin


So you would be cool if some asshat merely lost his liscence and was fined for killing someone you loved? Like pyro said, it only takes once to end a life.

No, that would be the punishment for a regular DWI, nobody harmed.

I am trying to be realistic here, in many places, if you get a DWI, you get a slap on the wrist.

Do you guys realize how common they are? I have heard of some people have 4,5,6 DWI's. All I am trying to say is that I am for much stricter consequences.

I think if some moron drives drunk and kills someone, he or she should face at least 25 years in jail.
Old 10-18-06, 01:32 PM
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The guy who killed Minnesota Timberwolves guard Malik Sealy just got another DWI. It's his 3rd or 4th DWI I think. He got 4 years for killing Sealy back in 2000.
Old 10-18-06, 01:40 PM
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Originally Posted by bballing
The guy who killed Minnesota Timberwolves guard Malik Sealy just got another DWI. It's his 3rd or 4th DWI I think. He got 4 years for killing Sealy back in 2000.
At this point he should never get out of the pokey.
Old 10-18-06, 01:42 PM
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Originally Posted by bballing
No, that would be the punishment for a regular DWI, nobody harmed.
I am trying to be realistic here, in many places, if you get a DWI, you get a slap on the wrist.
Do you guys realize how common they are? I have heard of some people have 4,5,6 DWI's. All I am trying to say is that I am for much stricter consequences.
I think I would agree we need stricter consequences, but mainly for people who are WAY over the legal limit. Since all states moved down to .08, it's difficult for some people to tell if they've hit that .08 or not. Unless you've been tested numerous times, you really have no idea if you've hit .08. Plus, I think there are plenty of people that can drive just fine at .08.
Old 10-18-06, 01:48 PM
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Originally Posted by bballing
Do you guys realize how common they are? I have heard of some people have 4,5,6 DWI's. All I am trying to say is that I am for much stricter consequences.
Yes. I know two people, one of them has 6 and the other 3-4. The guy with 3-4 lost his liscence the last time and the day before he was due to get it back, went out drinking (and driving). Needless to say he got pulled over and lost his liscence for even longer.

Yes things should definitely be stricter.
Old 10-18-06, 02:01 PM
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Originally Posted by SuperJim88
Not that I disagree this murder should get the same punishment as 2nd degree murder, but doesn't 2nd degree murder require proof of intent? I can see the murder intent to drive home after getting really drunk, but I don't see the intent of killing the limo driver and the poor kid.

I'm sorry to say this, but I see this case getting overturned on appeal simply because of the lack of proof of intent.

Not necessarily. Under the modern statutory scheme (though i don't know specifically for this state), intent OR "gross recklessness" is enough for a 2nd degree murder conviction. I'm assuming this falls under gross recklessness (although that person in the article uses the phrase "voluntarily was intoxicated").
Old 10-18-06, 02:06 PM
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Originally Posted by SuperJim88
Not that I disagree this murder should get the same punishment as 2nd degree murder, but doesn't 2nd degree murder require proof of intent? I can see the murder intent to drive home after getting really drunk, but I don't see the intent of killing the limo driver and the poor kid.

I'm sorry to say this, but I see this case getting overturned on appeal simply because of the lack of proof of intent.
The definition of 2nd degree murder varies from state-to-state, but generally, it doesn't require intent. In this case, the state of New York allows for a charge of second degree murder when a person's behavior is so reckless that it shows a "depraved indifference to human life" -- i.e. it's likely to severely injure or kill someone. Having a BAL of 0.28 and driving down the wrong side of the road is about as reckless as it gets and shows a clear indifference to human life.

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