A Suffolk Superior Court judge sentenced a 30-year-old Allston man to serve 18 months in jail and three years of probation for crashing his car into a young couple that was taking a walk in the Back Bay last June.
The defendant was charged with motor vehicle homicide by negligent operation. According to the Boston Globe, the Commonwealth alleged that the defendant drove through a traffic light at the intersection of Beacon Street and Fairfield Street seven seconds after the light had turned red. The defendant’s car collided with another vehicle and then spun into the crosswalk where 27-year-old Jessica Campbell and 28-year-old John Lanzillotti, Jr. were walking. The defendant’s car struck and killed the couple. The defendant pleaded guilty on Friday in Suffolk Superior Court.
The defendant’s attorney said that the defendant wanted to take responsibility for the accident from the beginning of the case and is broken up over the couple’s death. Motor vehicle homicide by negligent operation is one of the few crimes in Massachusetts that does not require a defendant to act intentionally. Instead, the Commonwealth must prove that while operating a motor vehicle on a public way, the defendant caused the death of another person by his or her negligent operation.
Negligence is a legal principal that means the defendant’s actions were not consistent with how a reasonably prudent person would act. In motor vehicle homicide cases, negligence can include speeding, weaving in and out of traffic, failing to yield, or, as in this case, running a red light. Because the defendant does not intend to kill, or even harm, the victims in negligent motor vehicle homicide cases, sentencing judges often struggle to determine an appropriate sentence. Despite the obviously catastrophic consequences of motor vehicle homicide cases, many defendants are spared jail time and sentenced to probation. The judge in this case wrote that she was mindful that the defendant did not intentionally commit a crime, but she believed a jail sentence was the most appropriate result.
A defendant who is charged with motor vehicle homicide should consult with an attorney as quickly as possible, because in most cases it will be necessary to hire an accident reconstruction expert to visit and examine the accident scene to determine if the defendant’s driving was reasonable. The most common defense in these cases is that sometimes accidents happen through no fault of the driver. An accident, even if it is fatal, does not automatically translate into negligence on the part of the drivers.
These cases are always tragic for everyone involved. In this case, the defendant is reportedly married with four children. After moving to the United States from Yemen, the defendant is now an American citizen and the part owner of a convenience store. His family will unquestionably suffer as a result of his incarceration. The defendant’s family’s suffering, of course, will be nothing compared to the victims’ families’ devastation. By all accounts, both victims were tremendous winners with great jobs and promising futures. There may not be more tragic cases than negligent motor vehicle homicides.