Samuel Goldberg has been a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney for 20 years. Prior to that, he was a New York state prosecutor. He has published various articles regarding the practice of criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network. To speak to Sam about a criminal matter call (617) 492 3000.

A Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer’s take on Vehicular Homicide And Very Bad Moments

One moment. One very bad moment following a very bad decision. Boston criminal defense attorneys see it every day.

That’s all it takes to ruin, or even end, innocent lives….as well as guilty ones.

It is a lesson that we witness played out on the Commonwealth streets this past Monday. Now, here are two similar stories to show it is a lesson that is still being learned quite late.

Let’s take the case of Jonathan C. , 19, of Saugus (hereinafter, “Defendant1”) for example.

Defendant 1 spent a very painful day in Lynn District Court this past week. He is now spending time in Commonwealth housing.

Defendant 1 pleaded guilty in a vehicular homicide matter which had caused the death of one woman and severely injured another. In open court, he apologized to the family on the other side of the tragedy, explaining, “There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of it.”

Defendant1 was not forgiven for the car crash last May that killed Carol Marean, 67, and severely injured her daughter Charlotte, 43, as they walked with their dog.

“I hope jail time impresses on him that it’s up to him to live in a responsible manner,” Vincent Marean, Charlotte’s father, said outside the courthouse.

Apparently, Defendant 1 had been drinking alcohol after his school prom in the hours before the crash. However, he was not charged with OUI because his blood alcohol did not merit it by the time he was tested. Instead, he pleaded guilty to homicide by reckless operation of a motor vehicle, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and transporting alcohol as a minor.

According to Defendant 1, he had been exhausted as he drove as he had not only been drinking, but had been up all night. This was the reckless decision that caused the deaths and for which he was prosecuted.

The crash occurred at around 7:30 a.m. on May 16 in Saugus. The night before, Defendant 1 had attended his Saugus High School prom, which included a harbor cruise, and he came back around 4 a.m. School officials set up procedures to make sure no students were drinking. But after coming back from the event, Defendant 1 and friends went to Nahant Beach. He told police he had about 10 beers, according to court records.

By 7:30 a.m., he was tired. He had two occupants in his car and was driving to a Dunkin’ Donuts on Route 1 when he nodded while taking a turn onto Essex Street. As he awoke he swerved the car to the right, onto the curb, striking Charlotte and her mother.

Prosecutors asked that he serve the maximum sentence of 2 ½ years in jail. His lawyer had asked that Defendant 1 be allowed to serve a strict probation term instead of a jail sentence.

Defendant 1 will serve 6 months in jail and the remainder of his sentence, 2 years, will be suspended while he serves a four-year probation term. He has lost his driver’s license for a minimum 15 years, must undergo random drug and alcohol testing, and must speak at 10 schools throughout the state about his crash after drinking.

One such scene in Lynn court would be bad enough. However, a similar one played out in the same week.

Christopher M., 19, of Salem (hereinafter, “Defendant 2”) also presented in court. His case was not at the end, but at the beginning. He was arraigned on various charges including operating under the influence and motor vehicle homicide. His 19-year old girlfriend was pronounced dead at the scene of the 1 a.m. crash near the intersections of Eastern Avenue and Glenwood Street, officials said.

According to law enforcement, Defendant 2 and his girlfriend had attended a house party in Lynn prior to the 1 a.m. crash. Apparently, two other passengers in the Toyota SUV sustained minor injuries and were treated and released from Salem Hospital.

Defendant 2 is said to have been driving on Glenwood Street and had run through two stop signs before turning onto Eastern Avenue, where he came into contact with a Honda Civic. The impact with the Civic sent the SUV slamming into two parked vehicles. When it hit a third parked car, the SUV rolled over and the young woman was ejected out of the open sunroof.

And so we have two more families ruined, not to mention various friends of the youths. In the meantime, Defendant2 ‘s bail was set at $12,500 cash , he will stay living with his parents and is also ordered to be tested for drug and alcohol use, wear a GPS monitoring device and will attend counseling.

There is really not very much to add here, is there?

As I was discussing with Attorney Nicole Loughlin just yesterday, one of the scariest aspects to being a defense attorney is witnessing, almost on a daily basis, how fragile life and freedom are. There is a lot of “There but for the grace of G-d go I”. People make mistakes. Some big and some small. Either way, lives get ruined and sometimes the most we can do is try to minimize damage.

This is why those who simply shrug at such issues and figure that those who are accused of crimes must be a different breed because it would never happen to them frustrate me.

They are out of touch with reality.

It can happen to anyone. Anytime. Anywhere.

If it happens to you, and you would like to discuss it with me and see how I can help, please feel free to call me at 617-492-3000.

In the meantime, have a great, safe and law-abiding weekend!

To view the original stories from which this blog comes, please go to http://mobile.boston.com/art/30/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2010/03/24/driver_19_who_killed_woman_apologizes/ and http://www.boston.com/news/local/breaking_news/2010/03/post_63.html

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