North Carolina man in fatal DWI case that affected law released from prison
A man originally convicted of first-degree murder in a driving while impaired case is being released from prison today. Authorities had alleged at his trial that he was drinking and taking prescription medication before he was involved in a fatal accident September 4, 1996. Two Wake Forest students were killed in that car accident, a third was injured.
The man was convicted of first-degree murder in 1997, the first person to be convicted of such a crime in a DWI case. The North Carolina Supreme Court agreed with the criminal defense that prosecutors were wrong in seeking the first-degree murder charge. The state’s highest court threw out the conviction.
In 2003, the man faced a new trial, and eventually pled guilty to a second-degree murder charge. The judge imposed a sentence of 15 to 18 years in prison on the subsequent conviction, with credit for roughly six-and-a-half years of time served.
While the case set precedent that first-degree murder charges are not available to prosecutors in a DWI case, the events led to tougher DWI laws in North Carolina. In 1997, North Carolina DWI laws were stiffened as a result of the case. The new DWI law in 1997 set a mandatory minimum sentence for habitual drunk drivers and included a license revocation provision for North Carolina drivers charged with DWI.
The man is scheduled for release from prison after serving roughly 15 years. He will be released on post-release supervision for nine months in Iredell County. During his supervised release, strict terms will be monitored by his probation officer.
Source: Winston-Salem Journal, “Figure in landmark impaired-driving case leaves prison today,” Michael Hewlett, April 11, 2012