Colorado readers may be aware of a recent appellate case involving a serious drunk driving accusation. A 45-year-old woman who was convicted for a number of traffic related charges, including vehicular homicide, has been granted a new trial. She was involved in a serious car accident that took place in 2009 during which two women lost their lives. After that crash, the woman was arrested under suspicion of DUI.
On the day of the incident, the woman’s vehicle struck a taxi that was on the way to the Denver airport. Police reports suggest that she was driving at an estimated 85 mph at the time and that her blood alcohol level was double the legal limit. In 2010, the woman was convicted and sentenced to spend the next 36 years in prison. The case was appealed, however, and a higher court recently set aside that conviction.
According to the appeals court, an error was made in early stages of the trial when the judge failed to ask the jury if anyone on the panel had been exposed to news reports about the case. A report about the incident had been included in the local news broadcast and online on the fourth day of her trial, primarily focusing on the driver’s prior DUI conviction. The Colorado Court of Appeals determined that the judge should have polled the jury as to whether anyone had seen that coverage instead of simply assuming that no one had.
Just as in this case, individuals who have been convicted of DUI or other criminal charges in Colorado have right to appeal. In some instances, procedural errors can lead those accused to be found guilty at trial unfairly. In this case, it remains to be seen if the latest decision will be appealed by prosecutors to our state’s highest court. It is also possible that the woman could be offered a plea agreement by prosecutors on terms more favorable to her or if the case will proceed to a second trial. Time will tell if the evidence in this case is strong enough to support a second conviction.