Will Vance Prosecute Driver Who Killed Yolanda Casal for Deadly Negligence?

A woman is dead her daughter injured after they were struck by an unlicensed driver on the Upper West Side on Thursday.

The driver of this SUV killed Yolanda Casal and injured her daughter when he went after a parking spot. Photo: ##http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/01/nyregion/two-women-struck-by-car-one-fatally-in-manhattan.html##New York Times##

Anais Emmanuel and her mother, 78-year-old Yolanda Casal, were crossing Amsterdam Avenue near West 98th Street around 5 p.m. when Edwin Carrasco, 38, backed his Ford Explorer into them while gunning for a parking spot. Casal was reportedly thrown into the air upon impact and suffered massive head injuries. The victims were taken to St. Luke’s Hospital where Casal was pronounced dead. Emmanuel, 41, was reported to be in stable condition with broken ribs.

Carrasco, of Paterson, New Jersey, was initially charged with driving with a suspended license, unsafe backing and failure to exercise due care. A spokesperson from the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance told Streetsblog Carrasco will be arraigned today, but could not confirm prior to arraignment what charge or charges were issued.

Northjersey.com reports that Carrasco has a history of license suspensions and reckless driving:

Carrasco’s New Jersey license had been suspended 23 times between 1992 and 1999, according to Motor Vehicle Commission records. The majority of the suspensions were for not paying fines and for being a persistent violator, agency spokesman Mike Horan said.

He has been in good standing since 1999, getting points off his license every year since then, Horan said. Before Friday’s charges, the last violation he received was for talking on a cell phone in January.

According to attorney Steve Vaccaro of Rankin & Taylor, potential charges range from a violation of VTL 1146 — the enforcement mechanism behind Hayley and Diego’s Law and Elle’s Law (pre-schooler Elle Vandenberghe suffered brain damage when she was hit by a driver backing up in pursuit of a parking spot) — to second degree murder, if the driver in fact heard and understood a warning shouted to him. Vaccaro believes criminally negligent homicide is “the highest charge that might actually be applied.” (Disclosure: Streetsblog has retained Vaccaro for legal services to expedite freedom of information requests.)

“The ‘rule of two’ is met here because driver was backing up unsafely (violation number one) and driving with a suspended license (violation number two),” says Vaccaro. “Alternatively, the court looks to whether the driver created a risk as opposed to failing to perceive one. Here, one can say the driver created the risk by backing up quickly in the direction opposite the flow of traffic.”

The so-called “rule of two” is an arbitrary precedent that, when adhered to, requires a driver be suspected of two simultaneous offenses in order to be considered negligent. As a candidate for district attorney in 2009, Vance stated that he was ready to challenge that standard.

A witness told DNAinfo that “the SUV was moving fast” and that Casal and Emmanuel “had the right of way.”

  • Rob

    Now another person killed, this time in Chinatown by a police van.  

    http://www.dnainfo.com/20110701/lower-east-side-east-village/person-injured-accident-outside-chinatown-police-station

    Never ends.

  • Anonymous

    ugh, there were two traffic cops parked in the 1st ave bike lane this morning, requiring us to veer into traffic to go around them (and go into the lane for cars turning left, extra dangerous).

    It never ends.  Yet, we have to have this f—ing bs policies for educating bikers and cyclists because they’re so dangerous.  Gosh.  This is such bs.  Cars are freaking dangerous!!!

  • if DA Vance doesn’t prosecute to the fullest extent, then he’s been blatantly lying to livable streets advocates for months. I’m sad to hear of this incident, but it was no ‘accident.’ thoughts and prayers to the families suffering.

  • Anonymous

    23 license suspensions in 7 years?  That is impressive.  Seems like there should be a finite number of times you can lose your license–something under than 23–before you lose the right to drive, just in the interest of public safety.

  • donald rainwater

    23 times. so, he gets a slap on the wrist and is allowed to do this all over again. bullshit. 

    wait, wasn’t there some big fancy law passed recently with lots of fanfare that was supposed to be used in instances of negligence like this. what use are laws if they are never enforced? all we do is make more of them to make ourselves feel safer.

  • Mister Bad Example

    exactly what does it take to permanently lift somebody’s license? How many violations do you need? It’s clear that this isn’t a skill that Mr. Carrasco has mastered or (apparently) wants to get better at. I’m not asking this rhetorically–there are many places in this world where a driving record like this would lead to PERMANENT suspension of driving privileges, and being caught behind the wheel again would lead to jail time REGARDLESS of the body count. They can do that in Europe because if you take away someone’s car, they can still get to work via mass transit. or bicycle.

    Stephen King’s account of the careless driver who ran him down and almost killed him in 1999 should have spurred some attempt to regulate bad drivers.The TA is pushing a campaign for zero tolerance of pedestrian traffic deaths. This should be a no-brainer, but politicians won’t line up against drivers no matter how egregious their behavior.  

  • Mister Bad Example

    exactly what does it take to permanently lift somebody’s license? How many violations do you need? It’s clear that this isn’t a skill that Mr. Carrasco has mastered or (apparently) wants to get better at. I’m not asking this rhetorically–there are many places in this world where a driving record like this would lead to PERMANENT suspension of driving privileges, and being caught behind the wheel again would lead to jail time REGARDLESS of the body count. They can do that in Europe because if you take away someone’s car, they can still get to work via mass transit. or bicycle.

    Stephen King’s account of the careless driver who ran him down and almost killed him in 1999 should have spurred some attempt to regulate bad drivers.The TA is pushing a campaign for zero tolerance of pedestrian traffic deaths. This should be a no-brainer, but politicians won’t line up against drivers no matter how egregious their behavior.  

  • Eric McClure

    If this isn’t criminally negligent homicide, then what is? If the Manhattan DA is not going to use laws on the books to put this dangerous driver behind bars, then who will?  This is a travesty on a number of levels.

  • Rob

    Is there an argument here against the relative low-cost of on-street subsidized parking?  This guy clearly could have put his vehicle in a lot, but chose to drive recklessly to save some money.  Maybe we need to add lives lost to Donald Shoup’s high cost of parking?

  • It’s shocking to see the dent in the rear panel of that SUV.  He must have been going pretty fast for human bodies to have made that impact in metal.

  • re-reading a february SB article on DA Vance’s decisions about vulnerable users laws … ‘Vance also emphasized that his office would distinguish between
    “accidents” and “gross recklessness”…’ If Yolanda Casal’s case isn’t prosecutable gross recklessness, then our @ManhattanDA has been misleading livable streets advocates for months, and he is a failure as a prosecutor. Call him tweet him… and if you find his email (i couldn’t find it on his website), email him your disgust.

  • The driver was backing at high speed in a vehicle with blackened celebrity glass.  The presence of dark tinted windows should deem any backing up to be reckless driving.  These ridiculous vision-impaired windows are illegal when driving forward.  Why is backing up any different?

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