10/29/2012Massachusetts Supreme Court Clears Driver Who Hit Homeless Man
Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court exonerates retired fire department lieutenant involved in fatal Christmas Eve accident.
A Massachusetts driver who struck and killed a homeless man on Christmas Eve, 2009 was cleared of felony charges Friday by the state's highest court. Paul M. Daley, 61, was driving his Toyota Tundra pickup truck on Robertson Street in Quincy. At some point, Daley struck and killed Paul Moore, 63, whose body was found behind a snowbank the next day. An autopsy revealed Moore, who had been staying at the Pine Street Inn homeless shelter in Boston, had a blood alcohol level of 0.25.
That night, Daley had been driving home from a party at his son's house. He testified that he had two glasses of wine between 8pm and 10:30pm. As he drove, the coffee in his cupholder spilled, distracting him. He felt an impact and stopped in the middle of the road. He looked and did not see anything in the snowbank on the side of the road, so he continued driving. He later noticed his truck had lost its side view mirror and heard on the news that police were searching for a Toyota truck that killed a man. He turned himself in the next day.
Daley chose to give up his right to a jury trial and had his fate determined by Norfolk Superior Court Justice Kenneth J. Fishman. Fishman found Daley not guilty of motor vehicle homicide and negligence, but he found the man guilty of leaving the scene of an accident where death resulted -- a felony carrying a sentence of up to ten years in prison. On November 4, 2010 Fishman reconsidered and decided "a finding of not guilty should have been entered" because he had made his decision based on the false premise that prosecutors did not have to prove Daley knew he hit a homeless man before driving off.
"In the case at bar, this court has consistently found, as a factual matter, that the commonwealth has failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knew that he had collided with a person," Justice Fishman ruled on January 3, 2011.
Fishman realized he could not order a retrial because that would constitute double jeopardy, which is prohibited by the Constitution. He acquitted Daley, but the district attorney appealed, insisting Daley should have been put behind bars. The Supreme Judicial Court put an end to the case by backing up the lower court's final opinion.
"Here, the uncontested facts are that the defendant knew he had a collision," Chief Justice Roderick L. Ireland wrote on Friday. "The judge, as the trier of fact, determined the commonwealth did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knew he had collided with a person. Therefore, the defendant did not knowingly collide with a person or otherwise injure a person, resulting in death, within the meaning of General Laws Chapter 90, Section 24 (2)(a 1/2)(2). Based on the plain language of the statute, we conclude that leaving the scene of an accident causing injury to a person, resulting in that person's death, requires the commonwealth to prove that the defendant knew he collided with a person 'or otherwise' caused injury to a person."