22 August 2001

It's a Better Deal to Flee the Scene of an Accident

The hit-and-run case of Mark Aaron Torre, a Phoenix lawyer and graduate of ASU and Harvard Law School, is drawing a lot of attention. Torre faces felony charges for leaving the scene of an accident - 18 year old Jessica Woodin died crossing the intersection of McAllister and Apache, after being propelled 300 feet (the AZ Republic story says "dragged 100 feet", but an officer on KTAR Leibowitz said "propelled 300 feet" and estimated the vehicle speed at 55+ ...) after getting struck by a speeding Ford Mustang owned by Torre. Obviously, Torre is abreast of Arizona law, and leaving the scene of an accident is a much preferred charge over manslaughter, negligent homicide, or 2nd degree murder (if alcohol was involved). On the KTAR Leibowitz show, the jail time penalties for the various charges were detailed:
  • Leaving the scene of a fatal accident: 1-3.75 years
  • Manslaughter (speeding, driving violation): 3-12.5 years
  • 2nd degree murder (alcohol involved): Up to 22 years

There's going to be no way to ascertain the blood alcohol content of Mr. Torre at the time of the accident. And in the dark of night, estimates of speed will be disputed by Torre's legal representatives. So, it looks like that leaving the scene of an accident is the preferred choice of action for an dangerous, irresponsible driver.
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2 August 2001

Judge Bars Statements Made in A.A., Overturns Conviction

This remarkable case in New York was the topic of the KTAR David Leibowitz program today. A federal judge overturned a conviction of a man who killed two people because he ruled that conversations between members of Alcoholics Anonymous members have the same protected privilege as contacts between clerics and parishioners.

The judge, Charles Brieant of United States District Court in White Plains, cited previous cases in which courts had found that the authorities could not force prisoners or people on probation to attend A.A. meetings. Those courts ruled that such a requirement would violate the separation of church and state.

Since courts have found that A.A. is a religion for the purpose of church-state separation, the judge wrote, they must also hold that "disclosures of wrongs to fellow members as ordained by the 12 steps" of the A.A. program qualify as "a privilege granted to other religions similarly situated."

Should A.A. be granted the same treatment as lawyer/client, cleric/individual, therapist/patient relationships? It can be argued that in A.A. each individual is indeed performing as "therapist" for the rest of the group. The judge cited two cases as precedent whereby A.A. was granted "religous" status. I'll probally be lambasted as, unlike the show host, I agree with the ruling - the police and district attorney should have not relied on A.A. witness testimony for evidence even if that is what triggered the suspect identification. There's not enough information in the article and I don't know all the facts of the original trial prosecution, but I feel that, abhorrent as it is to set this guy free, the patient/client protections should be still kept intact.

Another thing I don't understand is how someone slashes up two people and gets convicted of manslaughter instead of murder. Tonight, I'll see if I can drudge up some more material on this case.