Prosecution Must Show Malice in Doctor’s Trial

in Homicide, on

The Wake County trial of a doctor involved in a fatal crash has grabbed local headlines. The charges of driving while impaired and second-degree murder are based on police allegations that the defendant’s blood alcohol content was nearly twice the 0.08 limit and that he had been driving at nearly twice the posted speed. The crash took place in North Raleigh in September of 2009. A 20-year-old woman was killed when the defendant’s car crashed into hers.

To prove the second-degree murder charge, the prosecution must establish that the defendant acted with malice. They argue that driving that fast after drinking so much alcohol showed that the doctor knew there was a great risk of causing injury. While defense counsel acknowledge that the defendant drank alcohol and exceeded the speed limit, they have argued that some of the evidence is unreliable.

Both the police and the hospital performed blood-alcohol content (BAC) tests. The hospital conducted the test for treatment purposes. The reading was higher than the police results — a 0.24 BAC, or three times the limit. Defense counsel asked the court to exclude the test results on procedural grounds; the judge denied the motion. Defense counsel suggested at trial that the results were skewed by the doctor’s chemical reaction to the accident. Lactic acid can be released after a traumatic incident and can raise BAC levels.

Defense counsel will likely keep chipping away at the malice argument. They have already drawn the jury’s attention to discrepancies in testimony regarding the defendant’s speed. News reports did not mention any specific witnesses the defense was planning to call.

Sources:

Raleigh News & Observer, “Rulings go against defense in Raleigh DWI case,” 02/22/11

Raleigh News & Observer, “Raleigh doctor’s lawyers grill officer in DWI case,” 02/24/11