Wiilliam J. Halpin III, a 25-year-old Melrose man (hereinafter, the “Defendant”) is likely not looking toward this week with glee. According to the Commonwealth, he was a bit too gleeful Friday night. Self-induced narcotic-type of gleeful. In other words, he is accused of driving his SUV under the influence of drugs. But it does not end there.
He got into an accident which killed one man and wounded a six-year-old boy.
Today, he is due in court to face the resulting charges. The state police arrested and held him at the scene of the accident. The accident took place on Route 1 in Lynnfield. It is also alleged that the Defendant struck one, not two, vehicles.
According to the Commonwealth, the Defendant drove his SUV into a taxi cab and a second vehicle, both of which were in the breakdown lane near the Fat Cactus restaurant. Ironically, the accident occurred while those two drivers were in the midst of exchanging papers after a different, more minor, crash.
Victor Vargas, a 42-year-old taxi driver from Lynn and father of two, was later pronounced dead at North Shore Medical Center Union Hospital in Lynn.
Just to make matters a bit worse, it turns out that the Defendant has a prior OUI case.
Want a little bit worse? How about that, according to law enforcement, the Defendant tossed what appeared to be several small bags of marijuana from his vehicle after the accident.
As mentioned, the deceased cab driver was not the only one injured. When police arrived, a six-year-old boy was found sitting inside one of the vehicles suffering from a serious injury to his arm and shoulder. He was transported to Union Hospital, then transferred to Children’s Hospital in Boston.
Today, the Defendant will learn if the court will allow him out on bail while the charges of with motor vehicle homicide while under the influence; operating under the influence of drugs-second offense; possession of a Class D substance with intent to distribute; speeding; and a marked lanes violation are pending.
It does not take an experienced former prosecutor and present criminal defense attorney for over 20 years to tell you that the Defendant is in a great deal of trouble.
People with no prior record facing an OUI related vehicular homicide are often sentenced to state prison. This guy has a prior OUI matter.
There are, however, several moving pieces to the prosecution’s case that might be interesting for the defense to explore. I don’t know who is representing the Defendant, but here is a free gift, should he or she need it, to their effort.
1. What is the evidence that the accident was the Defendant’s fault? We already know that there was a prior accident between the two other cars. If there was negligence involved in that accident, why don’t we assume that said driver was negligent in where his vehicle? Maybe the surviving other driver says he witnessed the Defendant driving negligently. Well, one has to wonder how he witnessed the Defendant before the accident. I would expect his attention would be on the business-at-hand with the other driver…as well as the young child. Not to mention the various cars zooming by.
2. Who is the witness who says the Defendant threw the drugs out of the window? The police were not on the scene immediately. Therefore, if it were done immediately, as one would imagine, it was not something that could have been witnessed by the police. Were the drugs tested for finger prints? Could the drugs have been thrown by one of the other drivers? Clearly, if the surviving other driver had thrown them out, and the police approached him about it, one would imagine he would have a motive to say they were not his.
3. On a similar issue, who says the Defendant was under the influence of marihuana? There is no mention here of any tests, nor of any hospitalization of the Defendant. In fact, any difficulties the Defendant had after the accident could well have been because of the accident. Perhaps it is the police who made this observation (after the accident). However, that little assumption also brings us to point three.
4. The Commonwealth has alleged that the marijuana was possessed with the intent to distribute. Nowadays, this is common, especially since they cannot arrest someone for straight possession of the drug unless it is of a certain weight. What is the indicia of intent to sell here? More importantly, if the pot was simply there to sell…why do they assume he was consuming the drug too?
5. There has to be a causal relationship between the Defendant’s accident and the death of the cab driver in order for the vehicular homicide charge to stick. There could well be an issue which will require expert witnesses as to this. What effect, if any, did the first accident have? What caused the first accident? Were any of the other drivers tested for alcohol or drug consumption?
6. Clearly there will be emotionally-laden aspects to this case which might make it necessary to watch the press effect on it. After all, there is a death of the cab driver and there was also the injury of the child. The defense needs to watch this as well as the extra pressure it might bring to the Commonwealth to “catch” the “bad guy”. “Catch” means convict here. You already know who the “bad guy” is. The police has already determined it and so the prosecutorial mindset is unlikely to change it.
These are just some initial thoughts that come to my mind when I read these facts. I am sure that, if the Defendant has retained experienced and gifted counsel, said lawyer either has or will come upon these questions as a matter of course.
That is, if he has such a lawyer.
Just like the type, if you are ever unfortunate enough to be in his shoes, you should have.
If you do have a criminal case and would like to discuss it with me, please free to call me to set up a free initial consultation at 617–492-3000.
To view the original stories, please go to: http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2011/03/06/man_held_in_fatal_crash_had_previous_oui_charge/ and http://www.boston.com/news/local/breaking_news/2011/03/melrose_man_due.html?p1=Local_Links