Archive for Thursday, December 15, 2011

Driver in fatality accident charged with involuntary manslaughter

December 15, 2011

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Douglas County prosecutors have filed an involuntary manslaughter charge against a 23-year-old Overland Park man accused of killing a 19-year-old Lawrence woman in a 2010 drunken-driving crash.

According to a Lawrence police report, Sean Barrett Walker’s blood-alcohol content was 0.23, nearly three times the state’s legal limit, two hours after the crash early on Oct. 14, 2010, at the intersection of Clinton Parkway and Inverness Drive. Police have said Walker’s westbound vehicle struck a southbound car driven by Mary Grace Paez, a 2010 Lawrence High School graduate. Paez died at the scene.

District Attorney Charles Branson said Thursday his office had issued a warrant and charged Walker with involuntary manslaughter while driving under the influence of alcohol, plus two traffic infractions: speeding and violating flashing traffic signals. Walker is currently serving a prison sentence in Hutchinson for a probation violation on an unrelated 2006 Johnson County attempted robbery and battery case.

His earliest possible release date in that case is January, and Branson said the warrant means Walker would be transported to Douglas County upon release of his current prison sentence.

In the DUI involuntary manslaughter charge, prosecutors accuse Walker of unintentionally killing Paez while driving when his blood-alcohol content was higher than 0.08, the state’s legal limit to operate a vehicle.

The police report also lists Walker’s speeding as contributing to the crash. He was headed west on Clinton Parkway and entered the intersection on a flashing yellow light as Paez was headed south on Inverness Drive and came into the intersection after she had stopped at a flashing red light. The Jeep struck her Nissan car on the driver’s side. The law that covers flashing yellow lights says drivers may proceed through an intersection “only with caution.”

Walker was traveling at least 11 mph faster than the 45 mph speed limit on Clinton Parkway, and Paez was driving at 13 mph in the 30 mph zone, according to the accident report. Paez’s toxicology test in her autopsy was negative for alcohol or drugs. Walker, who police said was treated at the scene for a head injury, refused to submit to testing, so officers obtained a warrant for the blood test.

If convicted of involuntary manslaughter, Walker faces from 38 months to 14 years in prison. Earlier this month a judge approved a $100,000 settlement for Paez’s parents in a civil lawsuit against Walker. The settlement was reached with Walker’s insurance carrier.

Comments

biggunz 3 years, 4 months ago

Huh? What is the law regarding a flashing Red light? Why is there no mention of that? Not defending the drunk in any way, but this girl pulled out into the intersection in front of a vehicle when she had an obligation to yield to cross traffic. And 11 mph over the posted speed limit is not unbelievable for Clinton Parkway. Again, I'm not defending this guy, it seems to me the girl would still be alive had she not proceeded through a flashing red light with another vehicle coming.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 4 months ago

1) "The law that covers flashing yellow lights says drivers may proceed through an intersection “only with caution.”"

2) "Walker was traveling at least 11 mph faster than the 45 mph speed limit on Clinton Parkway" 2a) That is not proceeding "with caution".

3) his blood-alcohol content was higher than 0.08, the state’s legal limit to operate a vehicle."

4) "Walker’s blood-alcohol content was 0.23, - > nearly three times the state’s legal limit < -, - > two hours < - after the crash"

Not a good combination.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 4 months ago

Everyone makes mistakes, I know I've sure made my share. But, having to play dodge-em with speeding drunks is a game I don't want anyone to be forced to play.

It's quite likely an example is being made out of this tragedy. There's only one possible benefit that can be the result of this horrific event, and that is that hopefully everyone will be much more aware of the dangers of driving, and therefore drive much more carefully.

I sure do hope that will include watching out for speeding drunks at the wheel that are just about at to pass out.

grimpeur 3 years, 4 months ago

Jeezus keerist on a stick. The girl would still be alive and he would be living a normal life if HE, not she, had never chosen to drive drunk. That's where this story starts and that's where it ends.

Sick of people going easy on habitual bad drivers. Yeah, probably wasn't his first or tenth or thirtieth time driving drunk.

You want to cite the deceased? Fine. A sober driver with the ROW, driving the speed limit, would have been more likely to recognize the situation and avoid the crash. And drivers need to believe they're going to get popped hard for doing 11 over, instead of believing they'll get away with it, as this guy did and as our current lax prosecution of habitual motorist offenders allows us to believe.

Not saying you're defending the driver. But he is the cause of the crash. Not her.

jafs 3 years, 4 months ago

They're both at fault.

She shouldn't have pulled out in front of him, and he shouldn't have been speeding and drunk.

chocolateplease 3 years, 4 months ago

She may not have seen him coming since he was goling too fast. Or, maybe she estimated that she had time to make it before he got there which may have been correct if he wasn't speeding. Is there anyway to know that she at least stopped at the red light before proceeding? Chances are that she did. Since he was speeding, drunk, and apparently paid no regard whatsoever to his flashing yellow light, he is more at fault, probably by far.

jafs 3 years, 4 months ago

If he was speeding towards her, it's more likely she would/should have seen him coming.

The story indicates that she did stop at the flashing red before proceeding.

Perhaps he is "more" at fault, but she bears some responsibility.

And, the bottom line is that it's always better to prevent these sorts of things than argue about blame after the fact - to that end. everybody should be more careful out there.

bad_dog 3 years, 4 months ago

Drunk or sober, if he'd been driving the speed limit he would not yet have reached the intersection by the time Ms. Paez entered it. From the tort law perspective, if you violate the law, whether it be by 11 mph or 30, you are negligent per se.

Did Ms. Paez exercise the proper degree of caution? We'll never know-no matter how much speculation we indulge in. We do know he was drunk and speeding. Geico already acknowledged liability and paid the policy limits. I don't believe it will go much better for him in the criminal proceedings. A drunk, speeding driver pointing the finger at the decedent as his defense will likely not be persuasive to the jury and may actually inflame them.

kochmoney 3 years, 4 months ago

No. A sober driver going 45 mph would not have killed her just as easily at all. A sober driver going the speed limit would not have reached the intersection before she cleared it and would have "proceeded with caution" before crossing. Furthermore, a car traveling 45 mph wouldn't have hit with as much impact as one going 56 mph.

We can say in hindsight that she should have stopped at the light for longer, but she was abiding by all traffic laws at the time of the accident. He was violating several at once.

jafs 3 years, 4 months ago

Generally agreed.

But, she shouldn't have pulled out after stopping at the flashing red, especially if he was speeding towards her from the side.

That also would have prevented the crash.

pissedinlawrence 3 years, 4 months ago

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Bob Forer 3 years, 4 months ago

Who knows, but if the driver Walker had been sober, he may have avoided the accident altogether, or at least minimized the impact of the collision. I can't argue with the filing of charges.

pissedinlawrence 3 years, 4 months ago

SHE did yield, the drunk driver was speeding, why are you so intent on defending this murderer?

Sigmund 3 years, 4 months ago

RonHolzwarth (Ron Holzwarth) replies… "There's only one possible benefit that can be the result of this horrific event, and that is that hopefully everyone will be much more aware of the dangers of driving, and therefore drive much more carefully."

Well there is that but don't discount the benefit 38 months to possibly 14 years of safer roads because another drunk driver who killed another innocent victim will not be driving in the car next to you.

ljwhirled 3 years, 4 months ago

Go away.

This is yet another example of a selfish, self centered, parasite on our society taking an innocent life.

cowboy 3 years, 4 months ago

The legislature needs to enact a law that driving under the influence is akin to murder. Having lost three of our family members to a drunk driver I have no sympathy for someone negligent enough to get behind the wheel while impaired.

.23 is trashed , a loved one is lost , this man should do 20 years minimum.

The coddling of drunks by our courts is shameful. Involuntary My A$$

droppinplates 3 years, 4 months ago

A flashing red light means STOP until it is safe to proceed. Doesn't matter he was going 11 mph over the speed limit. It's her fault she pulled in front of a moving vehicle. Someone stated earlier that if he weren't drunk he may have been able to avoid her, which is true, but she entered the intersection before it was safe to do so and was hit as a result.

droppinplates 3 years, 4 months ago

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big_john 3 years, 4 months ago

she miss judged his speed. He was going over the speed limit. He couldn't judge anything, he was drunk. Blinking red light, stop and proceed with caution. She was assuming he was driving the speed limit and would have time to cross. If he was driving as he should have, they both would be alive. Sounds like droppinplate has a man crush on the man that likes to drive drunk, maybe this is the norm for for the misguided droppinplates as well.

Bob Forer 3 years, 4 months ago

At 45 mph one travels 66 feet per second. At 56 mph, one travels 82 feet per second. The difference is 16 feet in one second. That 16 feet could have meant the difference between a collision and a near miss.

Perhaps she misjudged his speed. But if she did, it was probably because she only glanced in his direction one. That's why young drivers are taught to look at least twice in either direction before entering the intersection. Looking twice gives you the opportunity to see something you may have missed the first time, and also allows a better opportunity to judge the speed of any oncoming traffic. Never assume the other person is driving the speed limit.

I agree with you. If he had been sober and driving within the speed limit, the accident may have been avoided, or at least at a far lesser, and non-lethal force of impact.

droppinplates 3 years, 4 months ago

Good lord. I'll bet the speed on Clinton Parkway is anywhere from 5-10 mph above the speed limit fairly regularly. Someone driving in the range of 45-55 mph should not cause someone else to not be able to judge whether they can cross the road in time. Do you really believe that? I have no sympathy for the drunk, it just amazes me that nobody thinks this girl is at least partly to blame.

droppinplates 3 years, 4 months ago

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droppinplates 3 years, 4 months ago

My initial comment on this story was civil, whether you agreed with it or not. It was not until I was accused of blaming the victim and being called ridiculous names that I resorted to the same tactic...but only with those posters. And I'm not trying to be a jerk, I just happen to believe the girl made a mistake that contributed to her death.

jillh 3 years, 4 months ago

Bottom line is HE broke the law the second he put the keys in the ignition. YOU DON'T DRIVE DRUNK PERIOD. There is no argument you can make for that fact.

geoismeo 3 years, 4 months ago

You people blaming the girl instead of the drunk should be ashamed of yourselves.

droppinplates 3 years, 4 months ago

Jesus....how did the drunk guy cause this girl to illegally drive through a flashing red light right in front of oncoming traffic? Please explain that. Her responsiblity was to stop and yield and she didn't do it!

droppinplates 3 years, 4 months ago

You guys keep talking about 16 feet, 19 feet. Whatever. Why would you cross in front of someone driving at least 45mph with that little room for error? Why not just wait the extra 2-3 seconds for him to pass through the intersection?

droppinplates 3 years, 4 months ago

Her responsibility was to make sure he was far enough away to allow her to make the turn. The speed limit is 45mph. The drunk driving 55mph should not have made the difference. If the guy was driving the speed limit and not drunk, he would have still had to hit the breaks to avoid hitting her. It's also called driving "defensively". Of course he didn't do it because he was drunk. But she didn't do it either and she may still be alive if she had.

jafs 3 years, 4 months ago

We don't know that.

And, driving the speed limit is not "cautiously" entering the intersection - that would require slowing down a bit.

Perhaps 35 mph.

big_john 3 years, 4 months ago

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droppinplates 3 years, 4 months ago

It's interesting that people can say things like I'm a moron but yet my comment is removed for calling that person an idiot.

Joe Berns 3 years, 4 months ago

I must be a total moron too then because when I come to an intersection and look to see if its clear, when I see a car coming, I can pretty much instantly judge in my mind if I can make it safely through the intersection before the vehicle makes it there. No matter the speed, our brain has the ability to calculate these things quickly and we then decide.

I also have yet to see anyone drive the speed limit on clinton parkway. Every time I drive there(which isn't often), I'm usually going a few miles over the limit, and passed like I'm standing still.

The guy was drunk, we get it, but the lady also made a poor decision by pulling out into an intersection at the wrong time. Drunk or not, if the driver had been speeding down the road, there is a high probability that she still would have been killed.

I feel like I'm taking crazy pills that there are people even arguing against this logic.

big_john 3 years, 4 months ago

droppinplates must be a dishwasher and alittle cracked

droppinplates 3 years, 4 months ago

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bearded_gnome 3 years, 4 months ago

nicely done DIST.

I love how so many are ready to condemn the dead girl.

I hope they'll consider the following, and I'll repeat it below unthreaded:

when you sit in your car* (not a high-up semi or bus), it is notoriously difficult for you to accurately estimate the speed of a car speeding towards you. why?

first, you're seeing the narrow profile essentially coming pointed right at you. (hint for public school victims, think perspective and parallax.)

Second, we humans aren't so good at estimating speeds of moving objects generally. and,

Third, even something more than a brief glance (as mentioned above) doesn't fix these problems!

bearded_gnome 3 years, 4 months ago

sorry dude, but the article indicates that she did obey the traffic laws.

Brenda Bohannan 3 years, 4 months ago

I agree with biggunz!! Get tough on drunk drivers!! How can someone who has had 3 DUI's(2 within less than a year, 1 while on probation) Still be out on the streets? (Not these drivers) Habitual violators should be put away. They say the laws are suppose to be tough on DUI's but not tough enough!! It is tragic that someone lost their life. The ones that suffer the most when things like this happen are the families that are left behind.

David Albertson 3 years, 4 months ago

I hope they give him the max sentence. He's a menace to society.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 4 months ago

Proceeding through an intersection with a flashing yellow light "with caution" would mean driving at least 15 mph under the 45 mph speed limit, not 11 mph over the speed limit-- there's a big difference between 30 mph and 56 mph (and he may have been going even faster than that.)

The woman made the mistake of assuming that any oncoming vehicles would be driving sensibly and legally, misjudged his speed and paid the ultimate price. But the fault for this accident lies 99.9% with the drunken driver (who must have been truly hammered at the time of the accident.)

droppinplates 3 years, 4 months ago

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lgreen17 3 years, 4 months ago

Why did it take over a year for the prosecutor's office to file these charges?That is the real question.

Bob Forer 3 years, 4 months ago

The toxicology testing takes a while. The report from the accident reconstruction expert takes longer. Also, this guy has been locked up serving a parole violation, so even if they did file earlier, the prosecutor would still have to wait until the defendant was released from prison before trying him. The DA's office did nothing wrong by waiting this long. Most prosecutor's offices would have handled it the same way.

droppinplates 3 years, 4 months ago

Great, now I'll never get to 11,000 posts!

droppinplates 3 years, 4 months ago

BTW, scrolling through the first 3 pages of your past comments revealed 100% in the rude and negative category. Out of your almost 300 comments since Sept. you've posted nothing meaningful. Maybe you should be removed.

droppinplates 3 years, 4 months ago

No, you just call people names and put people down. In every single one of your comments. Congratulations on being such a class act.

droppinplates 3 years, 4 months ago

Look at yourself in the mirror, you may find out why you've been called all kinds of names over the years. You didn't agree with what I said so you resorted to name calling...as you usually do. There are others that agree with what I said because it's common sense. Read the comments. The most intelligent thing you can say over and over is I'm some drunk's "couzin". 11,000+ posts and that's the best you got?

bad_dog 3 years, 4 months ago

There is no correlation between "common sense" and your comments.

Fact 1: He was drunk, actually trashed at almost 3 times the legal limit.
Fact 2: He was speeding.
Fact 3: Ms. Paez made a complete stop and then made the error of proceeding into the path of a drunk, speeding driver.

In the absence of the first fact he might have been able to avoid Ms. Paez and her inconsiderate presence in the intersection. In the absence of the second fact, he would not have arrived at the intersection at the time she passed through. Combine the facts and we see what results, regardless whether you blame Ms. Paez for interrupting his otherwise uneventful trip home. A fatality that should never have happened.

No name calling, nothing rude. Just the facts.

bearded_gnome 3 years, 4 months ago

If convicted of involuntary manslaughter, Walker faces from 38 months to 14 years in prison. Earlier this month a judge approved a $100,000 settlement for Paez’s parents in a civil lawsuit against Walker. The settlement was reached with Walker’s insurance carrier.

---looks like the judge and his insurance company agree that drunkwalker was indeed the cause of this accident.

having three, can't he now be charged also as an habitual offender?


we are entirely too soft on drunk drivers!

first: confiscate vehicle from DUI's on first offense with BAC documented.

then, second DUI, they get the death penalty.

bet that'd cut way down on our terrible epidemic of DUI's.
the liberals loved to beef about how many people died in Iraq/Afghanistan, but nerry a word about how so vastly many more people die in carnage on our roads.

and remember, those totaled cars are supposed to go to Walmart, Merrill said so. lol

droppinplates 3 years, 4 months ago

Dead girl drove through a flashing red light. Flashing red means stop and then proceed when safe to do so. Drunk guy drove through yellow which means proceed with caution. What if the guy wasn't drunk? Still his fault because he drove through a yellow light? You are a good example of why fossels should be required to renew their driver's license every year.

jafs 3 years, 4 months ago

You are wrong, according to all of the articles on the subject.

According to them, she did not in fact "drive through" a flashing red light - she stopped and then proceeded.

I agree that she has some responsibility here - she should have waited until he passed. But he was both drunk and speeding, so he probably has a bit more responsibility, legally.

Bottom line - everybody needs to be more careful, and follow the rules of the road, so that we don't have so many of these horrible and tragic occurrences.

droppinplates 3 years, 4 months ago

That is what I mean by driving through a flashing red light. She stopped, but then obviously proceeded before intersection was clear. And I agree completely with everything you just said.

droppinplates 3 years, 4 months ago

"Just so DOR can get may money."

Isn't it funny how the above happens to spelling champions.

Anyway, I'm bored bobby boy. I've made my point. If I keep this up I'll have over 11,000 posts when I'm half dead too. Have a good day.

jesse499 3 years, 4 months ago

They were both wrong but she paid for her mistake now he has to.

jesse499 3 years, 4 months ago

And by the way his mistake was worse but no matter what he gets she paid the higher price.

jafs 3 years, 4 months ago

Agreed.

Except that we should always try to understand how these tragedies happen, and learn from them.

If people stopped drinking and driving so much, and/or were more careful pulling out into intersections like this one, and fewer accidents occurred as a result, that would be a good thing.

jesse499 3 years, 4 months ago

That is what I was saying there is enough blame she did not deserve to die and I would think that he has to live every day knowing what he did.The thing to do is don't make the same mistakes and pray for them and their familys.

bearded_gnome 3 years, 4 months ago

given what I'm posting below in this post, I'm not even so sure she made any mistake at all!

I think, given this, that many if not most drivers in lawrence would have made the same choice to pull out into the intersection after stopping that she did:

when you sit in your car (not a high-up semi or bus), it is notoriously difficult for you to accurately estimate the speed of a car speeding towards you. why?

first, you're seeing the narrow profile essentially coming pointed right at you. (hint for public school victims, think perspective and parallax.)

Second, we humans aren't so good at estimating speeds of moving objects generally. and,

Third, even something more than a brief glance (as mentioned above) doesn't fix these problems!

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