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Virginia Defendant Unsuccessfully Appeals Manslaughter Conviction

In a recent opinion coming out of a Virginia court, the defendant appealed his conviction of aggravated involuntary manslaughter and his sentence of 20 years in prison. On appeal, the defendant’s main argument was that the evidence used at trial was not sufficient to result in a guilty conviction. Looking at the evidence, the court of appeals disagreed and affirmed the original conviction.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant in this case was at a nightclub one night with friends – over the course of the evening, he consumed seven beers and considered himself competent enough to drive home. Around 2:00am, the defendant got in his car and left the bar, later colliding with another vehicle as he was driving home.

A witness to the accident reported that he saw the defendant’s car speeding through the light. The force of the collision launched the second car off the road and up an embankment, at which point the second car struck a pole. The driver of the second car died immediately from blind force trauma to his head.

The defendant was transported to the hospital, and a forensic analysis revealed that his blood alcohol concentration was .145. At trial, the defendant was found guilty of aggravated involuntary manslaughter. He appealed his conviction.

The Decision

On appeal, the defendant argued that the evidence was insufficient to support a finding of aggravated involuntary manslaughter. The defendant maintained that not all homicides related to drunk driving rise to this level of offense, and that it was not necessary for the jury to find him guilty of such a significant crime. His blood alcohol content of .145 was not high enough to warrant an elevated punishment, and the defendant argued that his sentence should be reduced accordingly.

The court considered the defendant’s appeal but noted in its opinion that the defendant did not point to specific parts of the trial record that showed where the prosecution failed to prove its case in full. It was the prosecution’s job, said the court, to prove that the defendant had shown a “reckless disregard for human life.” Because the prosecution’s evidence supported every element of this standard, their burden was met. Thus, even though the defendant did not feel as though the guilty verdict was fair based on the weight of the evidence, in the absence of a specific indication showing where the prosecution went wrong, the case had to be affirmed.

The defendant’s appeal was denied and his sentence of 20 years remained in place.

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