Judge Clears Unlicensed Driver Who Left Doored Cyclist to Die in the Street

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.

The driver involved in the crash that killed Brooklyn cyclist Jasmine Herron reportedly committed three offenses. She was not charged for dooring, a charge for leaving the scene was dropped, and her conviction for driving with a suspended license was overturned by a judge. Photo via ##http://ghostbikes.org/new-york-city/jasmine-herron##Ghost Bikes##

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.”

  • Ian Turner

    The DMV needs to start sending out suspension notices via certified mail, starting immediately.

  • Include URLs, phone number, mailing addresses and names of who we should complain to. With the exception of NY Post story, all the other links go to other StreetsBlog articles. Shared moral outrage is one thing; focused action is another.

  • Anxiously Awaiting Bike Share

    The problem with dooring is that it doesn’t require a license to sit in a parked car and open a car door.  5 year olds do it all the time.  Hard problem to solve.

    The mailing issue is utter nonsense and involves a lazy prosecutor who couldn’t disprove “I never got the notice.”

  • Larry Littlefield

    I agree with Tedesco that the penalties for driving without a license should be severe. Taking the vehicle makes sense too.

    If will be interesting to see if this person or her insurance company pay any civil damages.  If the answer is yes for the insurance company, then anyone who honestly registers their car in Broooklyn will be hit with the bill plus 20 percent.

  • Anonymous

    I’m the guy who got this issue originally in the newspaper – which finally led to some tracton with Brewer’s bill. Looks like I might have to pay these stores a visit…

    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EFDB113EF937A35756C0A9619C8B63 

  • Didn’t Streetsblog article on Sen Golden’s bill just report days ago that “leaving the scene” was only a misdemeanor and that’s why DUI drivers opt for that so they can sober up at home and avoid a felony? I’m confused. 

  • Ben Kintisch

    David – I agree with you. Can you imagine how Herron’s mother, Ms. Clouse, feels? Her daughter is dead, and the judge throws out the charge based on a technicality. Disgusting. I think we need to write some letters to this judge fellow.

  • Anonymous

    Who is Krystal Francis related to is the simple question that need to be answered. 

  • Anonymous

    What is shocking is the idea that the mail delivery plays a role in judging a crime: kill a cyclist and leave the scene should be plenty enough to put her in jail. Forget about the mail..

  • Bram

    Is there no vehicular homicide statute in New York? Really?

  • I don’t live in NY, but in all the states I have lived in there is an expiration date printed right on the driver’s license. Is having a date right on the license in your pocket not notice enough of when it expires?

  • Anonymous

    @twitter-174942305:disqus : I think that her license didn’t expire, but it was suspended. Hence the need for a notice.

  • Jimm Pratt

    from the photo caption: “Jasmine Herron reportedly committed three offenses”… um.. I thought she was the *victim* ?

  • Gotta read the whole sentence, Jimm…

  • Think most  people leaving comments miss the point…. isn’t there someone fundamentally wrong when a driver can door a cyclist, kill them and not even be late for their appointment?  her licence has nothing to do with this. the fact is that people open doors without looking all the time, drivers and passengers. There are many behaviors people in cars exhibit that are  extremely dangerous to cyclist and instead of increasing awareness and  prosecuting reckless offenders the police and court systems take a ride at your own risk mentality at best and a cyclist are dangerous mentality at worse.  
    I don’t think there is a conspiracy to discourage cycling  (mostly because I remember nyc 10 years ago when there where almost no bike paths) and I support mandatory helmet laws but the reason we don’t have sufficient laws to protect cyclist from drivers is because not enough law makers are cyclist and there for they fundamentally don’t empathize with bikers and consequently don’t want to change their ways (thoughtless car behavior)  for some small population of people they have nothing in common with. this is why the burden for safety is constantly being put on cyclist, who must be the problem. this thinking will fade as more people cycle and and more of us bring issue with government. I should also say that its probably not helping that there are a few asshole cyclist who run lights in front of moving cars, don’t wear reflectives/lights at night, cycle on populated sidewalks when there is a bike lane, bike on the wrong side of the road or turn from the wrong lane (i saw each of these things on a 2 hour ride last night in manhattan). although this was not this behavior that killed Herron this stuff supports the thinking that cyclist are dangerous and puts save cyclist at risk from drivers who now think all cyclist are jerks and from law makers who don’t see a need to protect people who won’t protect themselves 

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