Man Involved in Landmark Dwi Case Free After 15 Years

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The results of a drunk driving accident are never good. But when such an accident results in the loss of a life it’s truly a tragedy. This was the case in 1996 when a North Carolina man killed two people while driving. He had been drinking alcohol and was taking prescription drugs.

The man’s decision to get behind the wheel after drinking was a poor one. It was a mistake that has been made by many others since that time. Although he certainly had no intent of killing the victims involved in the accident, in 1997 he became the first person ever in North Carolina to be convicted of first-degree murder in an impaired driving case.

The stiff sentence meant he would spend life in prison without parole. Some felt as if the sentence would be another loss of life in what was already a devastating tragedy for everyone involved. More importantly, the verdict brought up concerns that prosecutors would have the ability to charge anyone with first-degree murder in future fatal traffic accidents.

The man who was charged with the crime felt a great deal of remorse for the damage he had created. He also felt as if he was being used as a guinea pig for the new law.

In 2000, the N.C. Supreme Court overturned the conviction, ruling that prosecutors were wrong to pursue first-degree murder in a DWI case. A new trial was set for 2003, and the North Carolina man pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. After spending nearly 15 years behind bars, the man was released last week.

This is a case that made national headlines as people pushed for tougher laws on drunken driving and others questioned if the punishment fit the crime. The debate will probably continue but for the North Carolina man who is finally free, he has already had plenty of time to sit and think about it.

Source: Winston-Salem Journal, “Figure in landmark impaired -driving case leaves prison today,” Michael Hewlett, April 11, 2012