Man requests new trial after fatal drunk driving conviction

A Pennsylvania man who caused a fatal car accident back in 2011 is reportedly requesting a new trial of his case after being convicted of vehicular homicide and driving under the influence. The conviction resulted in a sentence of 18 years in state prison.

According to the man’s attorney, the trial was compromised by an expert witness for the prosecution, an emergency room doctor who gave his opinion on the man’s intoxication at the time of the crash. That testimony was a significant point of focus in the direct examination of the doctor and was used to build up the conclusion that the driver was indeed intoxicated at the time of the crash. The objection by the defense was that this testimony was inadmissible because it is hearsay. 

Legally speaking, hearsay is defined as “an out-of-court statement introduced to prove the truth of the matter asserted.” Not all hearsay is inadmissible, though. Some exceptions includes statements which go against the interests of the one making the statement, statements which constitute records of regularly conducted activity, and recorded recollections. The point behind keeping most hearsay statements out of trial is that any assertions presented into evidence need to be subjected to the scrutiny of the court. There is no way to do that unless statements presented as evidence are made in court, under oath.

In any case, it remains to be seen whether the motion for a new trial will be approved. Such motions are not always granted, of course, the decision depending on whether the law supports a new trial and how convincingly the defendant’s advocate presents the case. 

Source: NBC10.com, “Drunk Driving in Fatal Accident Wants New Trial,” July 30, 2014.Centre Daily Times, “Shirk seeks new trial in DUI homicide conviction,” Lori Falce, July 29, 2014. 

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