Drunk driver convicted of murder

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.

One comment

  1. The attempt to tie ‘depraved indifference murder’ to drunk driving tragedies like the Heidgen case is, unfortuneately, more politic than substance. Its origin is more with MADD’s attempts at strongarming the policitcal process via emotional situations, which is why MADD is the wealthiest PAC, than with basis in law.

    First, Heidgen is probably an alcoholic. We don’t know this absolutely but if he is, this, at the outset, shows that Heidgen has no thought or control of his actions once he’s started drinking. An addicts behavior.

    The point being, once drinking, it is doubtful that “I want to kill someone and do a lot of damage by getting really drunk and driving my truck into someone” probably didn’t take precedence over the need/want of another drink. He would have been more able to guarantee success with ‘depraved indifference murder’ if he remained sober, picked his victim(s), and then proceeded to act.

    Second, only Heidgen knows how many times prior to the incident in this case that he drove home in a drunken state and nothing happened. We can only assume that this number is greater than 1, because of the assumption that he is alcoholic and that he has lived in the area for awhile. If this number is, say 15, this would give Heidgen, sub-consciously or otherwise, the false impression that nothing will continue to happen if he continues to indulge in his drinking behavior.

    Third, assuming alcoholism and a thought process extending about 1 drink into the future, the likelihood of a tradgedy as severe as Heidgen’s is very low. Granted, driving under the influence of anything including a cell phone increases the likelihood of accident. However, it is far more likely that Heidgen would wrap his truck around a tree or telephone pole than crash into someone else. So for him to ‘depend’ on the outcome that occurred with this incident is, again, a reach in logic.

    I will never know the grief experienced by the victims of tragedies like this. However, ‘murder’ is a stretch in logic in cases such as these, tantmount to revenge by the state. And is only made possible by the under-handed dealings of MADD’s lobbying tactics.

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