An unlicensed driver who fatally doored a Brooklyn cyclist and left the scene has had the sole criminal charge against her thrown out of court.
In September 2010, 23-year-old Jasmine Herron was run over by a city bus on Atlantic Avenue after Krystal Francis, of Staten Island, opened a car door in her path. According to reports, Francis left the scene to attend a baby shower and later denied involvement in the crash. She was initially charged with driving with a suspended license as well as felony leaving the scene — a charge that was later dropped because the law only applies to moving vehicles. She was not charged for dooring, which is a violation of city and state traffic rules.
In February, Francis was found guilty at trial of aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the third degree, a misdemeanor that stipulates that she drove without a license when she knew or should have known she didn’t have one. Prosecutors said Francis’s license was suspended after she ignored two notices and did not answer a traffic ticket she received five months before the crash, according to trial coverage in the Daily News.
On Tuesday Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Guy Mangano overturned the jury verdict, citing — or perhaps creating — a loophole that would seem to undermine most if not all suspended license cases. The Daily News reports:
Prosecutors had to prove, among other things, that Francis had proper notice that her license expired before she got behind the wheel the day of the September 2010 wreck. To do that, they called a Department of Motor Vehicle supervisor from the Brooklyn office, not from Albany, where such notices originate.
Because the witness “did not have personal knowledge of the mailing procedures,” the judge wrote, Francis’ constitutional right to confront witnesses against her was violated.
“There was no proof offered whatsoever concerning an essential element of the crime,” the judge ruled.
Mangano said in court that the need to show that the suspension notice was sent by the DMV and that the Post Office delivered it to the right address makes it “extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the People to prove these cases.”
Here we have a driver accused of no fewer than three offenses related to a fatal crash — driving without a license, dooring and leaving the scene — whom the New York State criminal justice system fails to penalize in any way. More broadly, Mangano is basically saying that under current DMV protocol there is no way to convict for driving without a license, which is often the lone offense pursued by prosecutors in cyclist and pedestrian fatality cases. The Krystal Francis fiasco again points to the fact that in New York State killing a person with one’s vehicle is usually not considered an illegal act in and of itself.
“I cannot understand how a judge can change the verdict of 12 jurors,” said Herron’s mother Wendy Clouse in a statement issued through her attorney. “This girl did something illegal that led to my daughter’s death. To make it worse, she left the scene.”