Retired New Jersey officer appeals fatal drunk driving conviction
Cape May readers who have followed recent discussions involving law enforcement officers entangled in drunk driving incidents may be interested to learn about the ongoing case of a retired police officer from Plainfield. Although he was recently convicted of charges stemming from a fatal drunk driving accident, the officer’s case demonstrated an unusual defense theory and the judge’s attitude toward his defense and trial conduct may raise questions about the validity of the sentence imposed.
The retired officer was convicted by a jury for crashing into a caravan of motorcyclists while driving drunk on a Pennsylvania highway. Two of the bikers died nearly instantly and four others suffered injuries trying to avoid a collision. At trial, the officer’s defense attorney presented evidence supporting the theory that the officer was not drunk at the time of the accident. He attempted to demonstrate that the officer had been incapacitated by an episode of low blood sugar due to hypoglycemia that resulted from a previous gastric bypass surgery.
The jury rejected the officer’s medical defense, as did the trial judge. According to reports, the judge belittled his defense claims and reproached the officer’s alleged lack of remorse after the accident. The judge elected to order consecutive sentences and ordered the officer to serve between no less than three years and potentially almost 10 years in state prison.
The officer’s defense attorney filed an appeal on January 24 specifically addressing the judge’s manner towards the defendant when she issued his sentence. He claims that the judge imposed a heightened sentence because the officer failed to show sufficient remorse. That demand for a showing of remorse, he says, amounts to a requirement that the officer admit his own guilt.
It remains to be seen how the officer’s appeal will pan out, but the consequences of vehicular homicide or similar charges are serious enough without prejudicial treatment from the court. The job of a defense attorney is to fight for the right of every client to fair treatment under the law and every New Jersey resident deserves the same.
Source: lehighvalleylive.com, “Retired cop convicted in fatal Bangor drunken driving crash says judge violated his rights,” Tom Shortell, Jan. 24, 2013