A drunk driver, Martin Heidgen, has been found guilty of murder in New York. He drove the wrong way on a freeway for nearly three miles, was three times over the legal blood alcohol limit of 0.08, and ran into a limo, killing the driver and a 7 year old girl.
I’ve been sober quite a few years now – and drove drunk many times before that. Stories like this give me chills, both for what I could have done and thankfully never did, and for families and friends of those killed by drunk drivers.
As for the drunk driver, rehabilitation is possible. Once you quit drinking, change can occur. I know more than a few men who committed violent crimes drunk, went to prison, and now that they been sober a long time, you’d never even remotely guess what their pasts were like. They ain’t that guy any more.
Would the driver have gotten the same conviction if, say, he’d gotten drunk, started shooting up the house, and a bullet went through the walls and killed someone next door? Would that be murder too? Or would it be manslaughter, which would still put you in prison for several years, but not as long as murder would.
That depends on how you define “depraved indifference,” the state of mind he was judged to be in while driving. Often people that who are that drunk don’t remember what happened, they were in a blackout, with their mental functions just as impaired as their physical functions. I’m not sure you can be ‘depraved’ when you’re nearly comatose.
The jury may have thought he was depraved because he passed other cars while going the wrong way on the freeway and thus his hitting the limo had to be purposeful. Um, he may have been so drunk that he was swearing at the other cars for driving crazy, honking at him, and swerving – and had no concept what was really happening. He tested out at 0.28, which is knee-walking drunk.
Heidgen could get 25 to life (whereas manslaughter would be 10-12 years.) Some experts say the verdict may well be overturned on appeal because the court “will make it crystal clear to prosecutors throughout the state that the murder statute is not designed for alcohol-related driving activity.”
The mother of the 7 year old girl held her daughters’s decapitated head in her lap until paramedics had to physically separate her from it. That family, and the family of the limo driver, will never recover from this hideous tragedy, one that would have never happened had one alcoholic decided to stop drinking that night instead.