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Doubt over identity of driver in hit-and-run leads to acquittal

It is natural for the family of accident victims and for much of the public to get emotional about homicide cases, especially involving teens. But the criminal process is not about emotion; rather, it's about seeking and protecting justice.

This point is important to stress after a Baltimore hit-and-run case ended in an acquittal. The family of the two teenage girls who were killed in the accident last year is disappointed with the not guilty verdict. There was not, however, sufficient evidence for the jury to find the defendant guilty of vehicular manslaughter.

Prosecutors couldn't even prove to the court who was behind the wheel at the time the accident took place on Martin Luther King Boulevard. Authorities didn't find the hit-and-run suspects until later, and when they found the car, the man who was supposedly driving at the time of the crash was riding in the passenger seat.

Later, the defendant's girlfriend testified that she and her boyfriend had switched seats after the crash. Her boyfriend, she claims, was the one driving. After the accident, he allegedly prompted her to switch seats with him, likely in an attempt to avoid being investigated for drunk driving.

The girlfriend pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact in the accident and is serving a five-year suspended sentence. The vehicular manslaughter defendant, however, is free, and that's because the jury took their job seriously. They cannot convict a person of a crime because they want to or because the deaths behind the case make them sad. The jury must have no doubts regarding the defendant's guilt, and the doubt that he was driving at all is a big one.

Source: ABC2 News, "Jurors acquit man in hit and run crash that killed two teens," April 13, 2012

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