More than two years after a fatal accident, a Taunton man was acquitted of drunk driving but found guilty of vehicular homicide. According to a Nov. 2 article in the Taunton Daily Gazette, Edward Leonard, 36, faces up to 2 1/2 years in prison for his role in the accident that killed Jennifer Walker, 25, in March of 2007. Leonard was originally charged with operating under the influence of alcohol with serious bodily injury, OUI manslaughter and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. However, after a five-day trial, the jury found him guilty only of vehicular homicide by negligence. That dropped his potential maximum sentence from about 15 years to 2 1/2 years. He will be sentenced Dec. 10.
Prosecutors said Leonard had been drinking on the night of the accident, and was driving behind a friend toward another bar when the accident happened. They were on Route 44 when Leonard’s truck collided with a 1990 Oldsmobile driven by Richard Gould. The crash killed Walker, a passenger in Gould’s car, and flipped over Leonard’s truck. The prosecution and defense disagreed on whether Gould, Leonard or both veered into oncoming traffic, and whether Leonard was speeding. However, it was not disputed that Gould himself had a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.10. Police at the scene and a bystander said Leonard appeared intoxicated, and police found open beers in the truck. However, Leonard disobeyed police directions to remain on the scene, traveling with his friend to another friend’s home in Providence. He turned himself in the next day.
As a Massachusetts OUI defense attorney, I believe this story is a great example of why drivers charged with OUI shouldn’t assume they’re guilty just because law enforcement says they are. It’s not hard to imagine that Leonard might have felt hopeless at the beginning of his case. Not only did a young woman lose her life, but police accused Leonard of drinking, speeding and swerving into oncoming traffic, charges that could have put him in prison for more than a decade. Those accusations might seem pretty damning — but as this case shows, more information can make a big difference in the outcome of a case. Leonard’s Massachusetts drunk driving defense lawyer successfully challenged the police accident reconstruction with an expert of their own. And the lack of firm evidence that Leonard was drunk at the time was apparently enough to raise reasonable doubts — the standard for a criminal conviction — in the minds of the jurors. Cases like this show why it’s so important to speak with an attorney before pleading guilty in any OUI case.
The Law Offices of Stephen Neyman represents people throughout Boston and eastern Massachusetts who are accused of intoxicated driving and related crimes. If you or a loved one is facing these accusations, don’t wait to call us and protect your rights and your future. For a consultation, you can send a message through the Web site or call (617) 263-6800.