Vehicle Related Cases

12 Cases

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AL - Geneva - William Jordan C1934

CA - San Diego - Jose Cervantes 1999

CT - Hartford - Michael Cyr 2005

FL - Hillsborough - Mitchell James 1999

MI - Newaygo - Larry Souter 1979

MS - Panola - John Alexander 1987

NY - Saratoga - Daniel P. Boutin 1985

OH - Stark - Christopher Bennett 2001

WA - King - Michael Lee Sipin 2000

Canada - MB - Cody Klyne 2006

Mexico - Rivera & Calderón 2002

Australia - WA - John Button 1963




Date of Alleged Crime


Geneva County, AL William Jordan Convicted 1934

William Jordan was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 25 years of imprisonment.  He ran over a person he knew in his car at night.  There had been a fire in the woods nearby and Jordan said he could not see well enough to tell whether a person’s body was lying in the road.  He spent the night at the deceased's home apparently unaware of his death.  When Jordan found out the next day about the death of the deceased, he telephoned the deceased's employer and went with him to the scene.  He was wholly cooperative with the sheriff and told him about running over what he thought was a pole or chunk in the road.

Jordan's relations with the deceased were friendly and intimate. There was no motive given for any hostile act towards the deceased.  There was no evidence of strong drink affecting any of the participants in that night’s occurrence.  The deceased had left footprints in the burned woods and no other footprints were found.  He had been shot and it could not be determined whether he was dead before or after Jordan ran over his body.  After Jordan's conviction another person confessed to the crime.  The state supreme court vacated Jordan's conviction for insufficient evidence; charges against him were subsequently dropped.  (Jordan v. State) (MJ)  [12/10]


San Diego County, CA Jose Aguado Cervantes Oct 22, 1999
(Federal Case) Jose Aguado Cervantes, a Mexican national and Tijuana resident, spent more than three months in a U.S. jail after border agents stopped him on his entry into the U.S. and found 119 pounds of marijuana hidden in the bumper of his car.  Cervantes, 67, had bought the car three months earlier at a U.S. auction.  The car had been seized four months prior to the auction in connection with its use in smuggling illegal immigrants.  “I put 100 percent of my trust in the American government,” he said in Spanish. “I never imagined they would sell me a car loaded with drugs.”  Cervantes subsequently filed a civil suit against the U.S. based on negligence, and the U.S. settled the suit for $275,000.  (E&B) (LA Times) (Cervantes v. USA)  [2/09]


Hartford County, CT Michael Cyr Feb 28, 2005 (Manchester)
While intoxicated, Michael Cyr had remotely started his car and sat in the driver's seat with the driver's side door open.  He was subsequently arrested for “driving while intoxicated,” although he never drove the car, nor did he put keys in the ignition.  After unsuccessfully trying to dismiss the charge, Cyr made a conditional no contest plea to the charge, which allowed him to challenge it later.  He was sentenced three years imprisonment with two of the years suspended, three years probation, and a $2000 fine.  In 2007, an appeals court reviewed the conviction.  It noted that the state had produced no evidence that Cyr had the car's ignition keys on him or that Cyr's car was capable of motion without the keys.  It then reversed the conviction, citing insufficient evidence that Cyr was operating a motor vehicle under the meaning of the Connecticut “driving while intoxicated” statute.  (Connecticut v. Cyr) [1/08]


Hillsborough County, FL Mitchell James Nov 29, 1999

Mitchell Houston James was sentenced to life imprisonment for three counts of DUI manslaughter.  At 1:15 a.m. on Nov 29, 1999, James was driving westbound on Fletcher Ave. in Tampa, FL.  As he approaching the intersection of Bruce B. Downs Blvd, he noticed a single signal fly towards him and he slammed on his brakes.  A car, with headlights off, ran a red light, at least 20 to 30 seconds after it changed red, and James collided with it in the intersection.  The car was occupied by four college students, high under the influence of narcotics.  The driver, Leanna D.,19 , had only been licensed for two months and was speeding without wearing her prescribed lenses.  The driver and another student, Majid T., died instantly while a third, Jaclyn A., died in a hospital.  Majid's aunt, Tami Sbar, was a Florida State Attorney.  The fourth student, David S., 20, survived and, according to the Tampa Tribune, had told his mother, he was the only one wearing a seat belt.  However, a sheriff's report stated that all four occupants were wearing seat belts.

At the scene, James was questioned about the accident on videotape and it was evident that he was sober, communicating and responding to all questions while suffering from a crushed pelvis.  At trial it was claimed that tests revealed he had a .234 to .237 alcohol level in his blood, which is nearly three times the legal limit under a .08 standard.  James' alleged blood sample had been improperly stored and was destroyed by the state 5 days after the accident, preventing it from being tested for his DNA.  Deputy Candace Fishel, the lead investigator, did a faulty accident reconstruction. She held no degree in physics, and was not an expert in the field of accident reconstruction.  Fishel allowed both vehicles to be destroyed long before James' trial.  James says, “I am not guilty of DUI manslaughter, because I was not drunk or impaired at the time of the accident, nor was I at fault.”  (IIPPI)


Newaygo County, MI Larry Souter Aug 25, 1979

Larry Pat Souter was convicted in 1992 of the 1979 murder of 19-year-old Kristy Ringler.  One evening, Souter had met Ringler at a bar and became friendly with her.  When the bar closed at 2:20 a.m., the two left with several others to continue the party at the home of Anna Mae Carpenter, which is located off of M37 (State Route 37).  While everyone else was inside, Souter and Ringler went out into the front yard of the house and became amorous.  At some point Ringler decided to go home, walking northbound along M37.  Souter followed her for 20 to 25 feet, trying to persuade her to come back and get a ride, but he soon abandoned his efforts and returned to the party.

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Panola County, MS John Randall Alexander July 15, 1987
“John Randall Alexander was wrongly convicted in 1989 of the July 15, 1987 death of a man who was run over by a car as he was walking along a two-lane highway in Panola County, Mississippi.  Alexander was convicted based on the testimony of three people, including a husband and wife, that he had confessed.  [He] was sentenced to life in prison.  In June 1992 the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed Alexander's conviction.  Five years after [his] trial the woman admitted she lied and perjured herself because her abusive husband wanted her to testify against Alexander.  She provided Alexander with an Affidavit that he relied on to file a state writ of habeas corpus.  Based on the new evidence of the woman's recantation that also cast doubt on her husband's testimony, Alexander's conviction was overturned in June 1995 and he was granted a new trial.  The prosecution did not act until 15 years after his release, when in March 2010 the murder charge was dropped and his indictment dismissed with prejudice, which means it cannot be refiled.” – FJDB


Saratoga County, NY Daniel P. Boutin Nov 26, 1985
“Daniel P. Boutin was convicted of two counts of criminally negligent homicide in Saratoga County on February 5, 1987.  While driving his truck on the Adirondack Northway in Saratoga County, Boutin collided with a police car that had stopped in the right hand roadway behind a disabled tractor trailer.  The police car’s lights were flashing, but visibility was low due to fog and rain.  Both the state trooper and the driver of the disabled truck, who were seated inside the police vehicle, were killed.  The Appellate Division affirmed the conviction, but the Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the evidence does not show that defendant was engaged in any criminally culpable risk-creating conduct.... Rather, it establishes only that defendant inexplicably failed to see the vehicle until he was so close that he could not prevent the collision.... [T]hat unexplained failure, without more, does not constitute criminally negligent homicide.” – Inevitable Error


Stark County, OH Christopher Bennett May 29, 2001

Christopher Bennett was charged with vehicular homicide after the van he was in crashed and killed a fellow occupant, Ronald Young, 42.  The crash occurred on Baywood Street in Paris Township.  Neither Bennett nor Young were wearing a seat belt before the crash.  Bennett pleaded guilty to the charge after a witness report and the state crash expert, Trooper Toby Wagner, indicated that he was the driver.  After Bennett's amnesia cleared in prison, he realized that he was the passenger.  Bennett requested that the blood from the van be tested and such tests appear to exonerate him.  The van had a driver's side airbag and Young's injuries were consistent with hitting the airbag.  Bennett's injuries were consistent with hitting the windshield.  Another witness has come forward who said Young was the driver.  Bennett's conviction was overturned in 2006, and he faces a possible retrial.  (Akron Beacon Journal)  [9/06]


King County, WA Michael Lee Sipin Mar 6, 2000
Michael Lee Sipin was an occupant of a BMW Z3 sports car that crashed into a tree and threw both occupants from the car.  Sipin suffered brain damage while the other occupant, David Taylor, was killed.  Sipin, who had a blood alcohol level of .11, maintained that he was the passenger, not the driver.  The prosecution used a computer program named PC-Crash to simulate the crash and it convinced jurors to convict Sipin of vehicular homicide.  Sipin's conviction was overturned on appeal in 2005.  The appeals judge faulted the state's PC-Crash expert witness for not accounting for multiple impacts in the crash and the changing dimensions and angles inside the vehicle.  (State v. Sipin)  [7/05]


Manitoba, Canada Cody Klyne Sept 4, 2006
Cody Klyne was convicted of dangerous driving and flight from police.  His conviction was based on the eyewitness testimony of two police officers who only momentarily saw the car's driver.  In Aug. 2007, the Manitoba Court of Appeal ruled that the officers' identification was too unreliable to support Klyne's conviction, and overturned the conviction.  (Winnipeg Free Press) (R. v. Klyne) [1/08]


Mexico Rivera & Calderón Jan 24, 2002 (Ensenada)

Francisco Rivera Agredano and his brother-in-law, Alfonso Calderón León were convicted of drug trafficking after 37 pounds of marijuana was found in the door of a Nissan Pathfinder SUV that Rivera was driving.  Calderón was a passenger.  The two were stopped at a checkpoint near Ensenada, which is more than 70 miles from the U.S. Border.  Rivera, a Tijuana printer, had bought the car four months before for $2,600 at a U.S. government auction in San Ysidro, CA.  It had previously been seized when 59 pounds of marijuana was found inside its gasoline tank.

Rivera had crossed the U.S.-Mexican border five times without incident after he bought the car.  Under Mexican law the two men were presumed guilty.  They were convicted after a Mexican judge rejected their claim that U.S. customs did not thoroughly search the car.  The two were sentenced to five years in prison.  The U.S., not only ignored their pleas for help, but fought to keep exonerating evidence from their attorneys.  After a year in prison, the convictions of the two were vacated after Rivera's lawyer was able to convince a Mexicali appeals court that the moldy marijuana found inside the Pathfinder was too old to be of resale value.

Rivera was later awarded $551,000 in a suit against the U.S. government, and may get an additional sum for costs incurred by his U.S. lawyers.  Calderón could not sue because because of a U.S. Supreme Court precedent barring lawsuits against the federal government for incidents arising outside the U.S.  U.S. District Judge Emily Hewitt ruled that she did not know how customs missed the contraband, but she rejected the claim advanced by Rivera's lawyers that the Customs Service does not thoroughly search vehicles because doing so could cause damage them and decrease their resale value.  In legal documents, U.S. attorneys said the government did nothing wrong and that the onus is on the buyers to make sure the cars are drug free.  According to Teresa Trucchi, attorney for Rivera and Calderón, “I don't think 'as is' to the normal consumer means, 'If I buy it and it's stuffed full of drugs that I'm unaware of and I get arrested, that's my problem.'”  (SD Union-Tribune) (CBS)  [10/08]


Australia (WA) John Button Feb 10, 1963
John Button was convicted of manslaughter in 1963 for allegedly driving his car into his girlfriend, Rosemary Anderson, as she walked by the side of the road.  Button was exonerated in 2003 after new evidence indicated serial killer Eric Edgar Cooke was Anderson's likely killer.  (IPWA) (Button v. The Queen 2002)  (Button v. The Queen 2001)