Area drivers involved in fatal or serious pedestrian crashes may face little or no jail time — if they are ever charged at all.
Drivers involved in fatal or serious pedestrian crashes may face little or no jail time — if they are ever charged at all.
That doesn’t sit well with some families in the region who have lost loved ones to pedestrian crashes.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous,” said Claude Joseph, whose mother, Claudette Joseph, 54, was struck by a pickup truck and killed Feb. 2, 2008, as she walked her dog in a crosswalk on Warren Avenue in Brockton.
The driver of the 1997 Ford pickup truck, Jonathan Spano of Brockton, who was 17 at the time, was not charged or cited in the crash, police said.
“I just wanted to say that I’m very saddened by the whole thing,” Spano, 18, a 2009 graduate of Southeastern Regional Vocational Technical High School in Easton, said when reached Monday. “There’s not a day that goes by I don’t think about it.”
But for drivers who are charged and convicted in a fatal pedestrian crash, the penalties can vary.
A driver facing the least serious of charges for killing a pedestrian — motor vehicle homicide by negligent operation, a misdemeanor — faces anywhere from one day of probation to up to 21/2 years in prison, with the final penalty decided by a judge, authorities said.
“Under the law, there are harsher penalties if a driver’s behavior is deemed to be more egregious,” Assistant District Attorney Bridget Norton Middleton said.
Drivers operating a motor vehicle recklessly or under the influence of alcohol can be charged with a motor vehicle homicide felony. That carries a minimum mandatory one-year sentence or up to 15 years in prison.
Then there is vehicular manslaughter, a charge created under Melanie’s Law, a tough drunken-driving law named in honor of a 13-year-old Marshfield girl killed by a repeat offender while walking with friends one afternoon. Drivers convicted of this charge face a minimum mandatory five-year sentence.
The severity of the penalty boils down to intent. Drivers found to have more intentional conduct may face first- or second-degree murder charges, Middleton said.
‘They want action’
Penalty outcomes can be hard to understand for the families of pedestrians who are struck and killed, one local attorney said.
“They want answers and they want a response and they want action,” Brockton attorney Mark Petti said. “Sometimes it’s difficult to understand why someone isn’t thrown in jail for hurting or killing their child.”
Petti, who has represented several pedestrians who have been hit by cars and buses, has also dealt with pedestrian crashes personally.
His twin brother, Matt Petti, suffered a serious head injury after a car struck him as he tried to cross Belmont Street in Brockton nearly a decade ago.
The Dec. 26, 2000, accident occurred in front of Petti’s Market on Belmont Street, which Matt Petti owns and operates.
The motorist who struck Petti, Jessica Cushing of Brockton, was 28 at the time of the accident and was not charged, Mark Petti said.
Meanwhile, three area drivers involved in fatal pedestrian crashes in Halifax, Stoughton, and Brockton in recent weeks have all been charged with motor vehicle homicide by negligent operation:
Marcia Chadbourne, 76, of Plympton, is accused of striking and killing 7-year-old Herbert Whitaker IV of Halifax on Saturday as the boy tried to ride his bike across Route 106 in Halifax on a crosswalk behind his father.
Ilse Horn, 88, of Canton, is accused of striking and killing 4-year-old Diya Patel on June 13 as she crossed Route 138 with family members.
Pierre R. Jeudy, 48, of Brockton, is accused of striking and killing 3-year-old Christopher Mitchell of Brockton on March 31 as the boy tried to cross North Main Street in Brockton with family members. The boy’s mother and sister were seriously injured in the crash.
Chadbourne will be sent a summons to appear in Plymouth District Court in the near future, police said.
Horn, who was granted a waiver to not be present at her July 15 arraignment, was released on personal recognizance on strict conditions that she not operate a motor vehicle, commit no other offenses and appear in court at a pretrial conference on Aug. 6.
A closed-door, show-cause hearing is scheduled for Jeudy on Aug. 4, according to the clerk’s office at Brockton District Court. A clerk magistrate will decide whether to issue a criminal complaint against Jeudy at the hearing. The state Registry of Motor Vehicles has revoked the licenses of Chadbourne, Horn and Jeudy on an “immediate threat” basis, and all three face additional charges.