Roger writing the LAWmag
12
Oct 2012

The Defence Rests: Not Criminally Liable Because of Sleep

Thirty-nine year old Timothy Clancy … oh well, let's let Justice Michael P. Barnes of the Court of Appeals of Indiana tell the story:

"On May 27, 2002, Clancy was awakened at 3:00 a.m. at his home in Hebron because he needed to go to Chicago for business purposes. Clancy owns a guard dog business (Action K-9), and he was informed that there was a report of a burglar on the premises of a property patrolled by some of his dogs. After driving to the Chicago address and helping police apprehend and process the burglar, Clancy and his son, Joshua, then sixteen years old, left to return home at about noon.

asleep at the wheel"At approximately 1:00 p.m., Clancy was driving his pickup truck eastbound on U.S. 231 in Lake County when it was observed traveling in the wrong lane of traffic for several hundred feet. One driver whom Clancy almost hit saw that Clancy was asleep behind the wheel. Soon thereafter, Clancy's truck came upon two motorcyclists, Dianna and Robert Goad. Robert swerved to one side of the road and managed to avoid being hit. Dianna, however, was struck and suffered severe injuries, including severance of her left leg at the knee. When Clancy exited his truck and approached Dianna, he said "What have I done?" Several witnesses, including the Goads, indicated that Clancy was the driver of the truck. Clancy, however, told the police officer investigating at the scene that Joshua, not Clancy, had been driving."

Dianna Goad's body flew into a water-filled ditch and she was saved only because of the quick action of her husband who lunged for her and got her mouth over the water level, while Clancy walked over and asked aloud:

"What have I done?"

Clancy was charged with criminal recklessness and failure to cooperate with the police during their investigation. He was convicted on both counts but it's what happened next that made the law books.

His argument: in the moments preceding the accident, he could not have been acting recklessly because he was fast asleep; in fact, he was unconscious.

The lawyers dusted off their lawbooks and sure enough, this caught the interest of the Court of Appeal:

"The general definition given to willful and/or wanton misconduct is in vital respects similar to the criminal law definition of recklessness. It has been stated that wanton or willful misconduct requires a host-driver to (1) be conscious of her misconduct, (2) be motivated by reckless indifference for the safety of her guest, and (3) know that her conduct subjects her guest to a probability of injury….

"Clancy fell asleep while driving. There is no evidence that he consciously ignored substantial premonitory symptoms of impending sleep…..

"In sum, there is insufficient evidence of criminal recklessness on Clancy's part; the mere fact that he fell asleep behind the wheel is not sufficient."

The conviction on criminal recklessness was reversed but not the conviction for obstruction of justice.

But even the partial acquittal hurt because Clancy was a diabetic and he had been driving for long time without adequate food or water. It seemed like he was getting off lightly because of a technicality.

Worse, he lied to the police and tried to pretend his 16-year-old son and only passenger had been the driver at the time of the accident - hence the obstruction of justice charge. Clancy, father, had a goatee and had been observed behind the wheel just prior to the accident. But the charade showed his character.

Dianna Goad, then an avid jogger, took the worst of it. She remained in a coma for two weeks following the accident and suffered catastrophic injuries:

"In addition to her severed leg, Dianna also suffered a fractured pelvis, a compound fracture of her left arm, a ruptured spleen, and multiple cuts and bruises. She underwent no fewer than seven surgeries and was fitted with a prosthetic leg. The prosthesis cost$50,000 and must be replaced every few years. Dianna’s treatment continues and requires her to take daily medications."1

When faced with the Goad's civil action, Timothy Clancy once again attempted to assert that it was his son was driving. His next strategy was to file for bankruptcy. Steadfast, the Goads pressed forward with the trial and obtained a $10 million award from a jury and another million dollars for emotional distress.

Clancy appealed the decision but the appeal failed.

In spite of the amputation, Ms Goad continued riding her motorcycle albeit with a modification.

The Goads tried to get some money from Clancy's insurance company, Allstate but the coverage was limited $100,000.

Clancy's actions simply made a horrible situation worse for the victims. It certanly brings to mind the expression that the law be done though the heavens fall - that in spite of his charcater and behavior, no criminal recklnlessness can be pinned on him for actions that cocurred while he was sleeping; apparently, even if he was negligent in creating the circumstances that led to that tragic state of unconsciousness.

Nice words of law that exonerate Timothy Clancy but give no solace whatoever to Dianna Goad. It also gives the next Timothy Clancy who maims on the road because of reckless disregard to his or her level of fatigue, an opening statement to the first responders:

"OMG! What have I done?"

REFERENCES:

Image is © Valerie Garner - Fotolia.com.

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