A Middlesex Superior Court jury deliberated approximately four hours today before finding Attorney Chris Spring’s client not guilty of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death.
At 7:00 p.m. on December 1, 2015, the defendant (then 60 years old) was driving on Main Street in Tewksbury. It was a dark, rainy night, and the defendant struck an object on the side of the road. The defendant had no idea what he had struck, and he stopped his car in the middle of the road within seconds to investigate. The defendant looked in his side and rear view mirrors and when he didn’t see any objects in the roadway, he continued to drive home to Billerica (he lived less than 10 minutes away from the accident scene). Meanwhile, several eyewitnesses heard the collision and located a 71-year-old man lying on the ground with serious injuries to his head and chest. The man had been attempting to cross the street when he was struck by the defendant’s car. One of the eyewitnesses followed the defendant and was able to obtain his license plate number, which was then provided to the police. The eyewitnesses agreed the defendant had stopped his car immediately after the accident and stopped again at a red light a few blocks down the road.
The police showed up at the defendant’s Billerica home within minutes of the accident. The defendant had just pulled his car into the garage and when the police told him he had struck a pedestrian with his car, he looked “shocked” and appeared “in disbelief,” according to the officers. The defendant immediately allowed the officers into his garage and signed a consent to search form that allowed the police to tow his vehicle without obtaining a search warrant. The defendant was arrested and charged with leaving the scene of an accident causing personal injury.
The pedestrian was transported to the hospital and received treatment for his injuries. Unfortunately, after bouncing around a series of medical facilities and nursing homes, he died approximately eight months after the accident. The defendant’s charge was upgraded to leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death (a felony that carries mandatory minimum jail time). He was indicted by the grand jury and he went to trial in Middlesex (Woburn) Superior Court.
The Commonwealth and the defendant both had accident reconstruction experts testify at trial, and the two experts agreed the accident was unavoidable. Based on the weather, the lighting conditions, and the pedestrian’s dark clothing, the defendant would not have had adequate time to see him prior to the accident. The only question for the jury was whether the defendant had realized he struck the pedestrian before driving away. The prosecutor presented photographs documenting the damage to the defendant’s car establishing the pedestrian had struck the hood (on the passenger’s side). It would have been impossible, according to the Commonwealth’s theory of the case, for the defendant to have not seen the pedestrian strike his car. The defendant’s accident reconstruction expert testified the collision was relatively minor (to the car, not the pedestrian) based on the shallow dents found on the defendant’s hood. The entire accident would have taken place within one- or two-tenths of a second. Attorney Spring argued that under those circumstances, it would have made sense that his client did not realize he struck the pedestrian.
Attorney Spring further argued that all of his client’s actions after the accident (stopping in the road; stopping at the red light; driving straight home; and being completely cooperative with the police investigation) were consistent with his innocence. Ultimately the jury agreed and found the defendant, who had never before been arrested, not guilty.