Parents of Lucian Merryweather: Our Son’s Killer Should Never Drive Again

Vigil for Lucian Merryweather, November 5, 2013. Photo: Fort Greene Focus/Ben Brody/Flickr
Vigil for Lucian Merryweather, November 5, 2013. Photo: Fort Greene Focus/Ben Brody/Flickr

This week, Anthony Byrd was formally sentenced for fatally striking 9-year-old Lucian Merryweather on a Brooklyn sidewalk.

On November 2, 2013, Byrd drove a Ford SUV into two cars and a building after swerving to avoid two people in a crosswalk at DeKalb and Clermont Avenues. He then made a U-turn and drove against traffic on DeKalb, struck a woman in a crosswalk, hit a parked vehicle, and drove onto the sidewalk a second time, striking Lucian and his younger brother.

Byrd was charged by former DA Charles Hynes with second degree assault — a class D felony — criminally negligent homicide, and other charges and traffic infractions. However, Byrd was indicted on a top charge of homicide — a class E felony, the least severe felony category — and the class D second degree assault charge was reduced to misdemeanor assault, according to court records.

In March, District Attorney Ken Thompson and Byrd agreed to a plea arrangement of five years probation, 20 days of community service, and a five-year license revocation.

Lucian’s parents, Anna Kovel and Greg Merryweather, sent us a statement on Byrd’s plea deal, printed below in its entirety.

We, the parents of Lucian Merryweather, who was killed by a reckless driver on November 2, 2013, in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, worked closely with the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office to construct a plea bargain deal for the driver, Anthony Byrd, so that we could be certain that the killer of our bright and beautiful 9-year-old boy pleaded guilty to the highest charge he received: Criminally Negligent Homicide.

Criminally Negligent Homicide is a felony charge. We want this killer to have that conviction forever on his record and to be held responsible for his devastating actions. This was an important decision for us; our intent is that it will set a precedent by which reckless driving is seen as a serious crime and can be punished accordingly. The previous reality, in which reckless drivers who maimed or killed walked away with a misdemeanor — or more often, a traffic ticket — is unacceptable.

Byrd pleaded guilty to Criminally Negligent Homicide on May 6, 2015, and was sentenced to five years probation, five years suspended driver’s license and 20 days of community service. We plan to appeal to the Department of Motor Vehicles to extend his license suspension. For everyone’s sake, this man should never drive again.

We are grateful to the Brooklyn DA’s office for bringing that high charge and for listening to our priorities. We hope that they will continue to work with the families of victims of traffic violence in finding a resolution that meets their individual needs.

Sincerely,

Anna Kovel and Greg Merryweather

  • neroden

    Good priorities on the part of the Merryweathers; the important thing is that drivers who kill through negligence need to *stop driving*.

  • Andres Dee

    Suspended for 5 years? How do we expect him to get to work, or to go out for a drink? Do you want him to take the bus or something? (/sarc)

  • I would be curious, since we have the right data to do it, if we looked at all drivers who had lets say, 3 moving violations, and took them off the roads, how big a reduction in serious injuries and deaths would that result in? I suspect it would be high, and this should be a priority, get bad drivers off the road. Why is it even politically difficult. They’re literally killing people, most people don’t object to not being killed.

  • Ian Turner

    It’s possible that revoking those licenses might not reduce the injuries as much as you’d think, because many of those people would (a) keep driving anyway, which we’ve seen, and (b) might be more inclined to lead police into a car chase if pulled over. Not that I disagree with your proposed policy change.

    If you combined such a rule with a rule that if you let someone drive your car without a license, then the car is forfeit, then you might start to make traction on injuries.

  • Lol, yes, the driving without a license is a big issue I think. Partly it comes from insufficient penalties. I think anyone who’s lose their license for safety reasons (moving violations) as opposed to failing to pay tolls etc., who is caught driving again should be imprisoned. There’s a legitimate public safety issue point here. The other aspect is carrot, we should provide the option of not driving, many cities losing your license is not substantially better than a prison sentence. NYC not withstanding of course.

    As for incentivising car chases. Maybe, it would, but people run from the police for all types of reasons, and we shouldn’t have car chases in the city anyway. Easier to catch people after the fact.

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