Cy Vance: Homicide Conviction for Driver Who Killed Pedestrian in Crosswalk

DA Cy Vance won a homicide conviction at trial against the driver who killed Jean Chambers while turning into a crosswalk. Jean Chambers photo via DNAinfo
Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance won a homicide conviction at trial against the driver who killed Jean Chambers while turning into a crosswalk. Jean Chambers photo via DNAinfo

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance has secured a homicide conviction against the driver who killed a pedestrian in an Upper West Side crosswalk.

Jean Chambers was crossing West End Avenue at W. 95th Street at around 11 a.m. on July 10, 2014, when Roberto Mercado hit her with an SUV as he made a left turn. Court documents and DNAinfo coverage indicate Mercado struck Chambers as he cut through West End Avenue’s southbound lanes while turning northward.

“I killed her,” Mercado told police, according to court documents. “I killed her. I was going eastbound and made a left. I thought I had a flat, people were yelling and pointing. I stopped.”

Court documents say that when police asked Mercado why he was driving north in the southbound lane, he replied, “I thought I was in the right lane.”

According to court records, in December Vance charged Mercado with criminally negligent homicide, a class E felony. A jury found him guilty last week. Assistant District Attorney Michael Pasinkoff prosecuted the case.

This case and the outcome are noteworthy. District attorneys in New York City generally charge motorists who kill people with homicide only if other aggravating factors are present, such as impaired driving, hit-and-run, or a police pursuit. In this instance Vance brought a case and won a conviction at trial of a sober motorist who killed a pedestrian and remained at the scene.

“I always expected that justice would prevail,” John Chambers, the victim’s husband, told DNAinfo. “I don’t think I’ll ever put this behind me.”

The crash that killed Jean Chambers was preventable. As Streetsblog reported last year, Chambers was struck at one of a number of Upper West Side intersections included in a 2013 pedestrian safety study commissioned by local City Council members. Community Board 7 and DOT failed to follow through with safety improvements until a series of pedestrian deaths, Chambers’s among them, prompted residents to demand the city take action. DOT has since implemented a road diet on West End Avenue and installed pedestrian islands at some crossings, including the one at W. 95th Street.

“If [the islands] had been there before, I don’t think Jean would have been killed,” John Chambers told DNAinfo.

Roberto Mercado is scheduled to be sentenced in January. Class E felonies carry a maximum penalty of four years in jail and a minimum sentence of probation with no jail time.

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