MINNEAPOLIS (AP)— A man convicted of vehicular homicide will get a new trial, after the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled Monday that a jury should have heard evidence that the crash victim was also drinking.
According to evidence in the case, Jeremy Scott Nelson of Lake Park was driving a pickup truck on Aug. 17, 2008, that struck an all-terrain vehicle driven by Christopher Wade Carlson, who was killed. Nelson was convicted of three counts of vehicular homicide stemming from Carlson’s death.
A three-judge panel of the appeals court reversed Nelson’s convictions and found that a Becker County judge abused his discretion when he did not allow the jury to hear evidence that Carlson was drinking. Carlson had a blood-alcohol content of 0.15 after the crash — and the appeals court says that evidence was relevant.
“It was unfair to permit the jury to consider how appellant’s decisions and conduct were affected by his consumption of alcohol without permitting the jury to consider how alcohol made a similar impact on Carlson,” the judges wrote.
The appeals court says negligent acts of both men were intertwined before the crash.
Evidence at trial showed Nelson was under the influence of alcohol and speeding, and drove into a ditch on County Road 1 near Lake Park seconds before he hit Carlson’s ATV. But the judges say Carlson drove his ATV on a highway without lights or a side-view mirror, and drove into the ditch — veering in front of Nelson — just seconds before Nelson hit Carlson from behind.
The appeals court also found that the lower court erred by refusing to include detailed jury instructions on the legal definition of “causation.”
Minnesota law requires the state to prove that Nelson’s conduct played a substantial part in bringing about Carlson’s death. The judges wrote that because Carlson veered into Nelson’s path, Carlson’s negligence could have been a superseding cause.
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