Will Vance Prosecute Driver Who Killed Yolanda Casal for Deadly Negligence?

A woman is dead her daughter injured after they were struck by an unlicensed driver on the Upper West Side on Thursday.

The driver of this SUV killed Yolanda Casal and injured her daughter when he went after a parking spot. Photo: New York Times

Anais Emmanuel and her mother, 78-year-old Yolanda Casal, were crossing Amsterdam Avenue near West 98th Street around 5 p.m. when Edwin Carrasco, 38, backed his Ford Explorer into them while gunning for a parking spot. Casal was reportedly thrown into the air upon impact and suffered massive head injuries. The victims were taken to St. Luke’s Hospital where Casal was pronounced dead. Emmanuel, 41, was reported to be in stable condition with broken ribs.

Carrasco, of Paterson, New Jersey, was initially charged with driving with a suspended license, unsafe backing and failure to exercise due care. A spokesperson from the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance told Streetsblog Carrasco will be arraigned today, but could not confirm prior to arraignment what charge or charges were issued.

Northjersey.com reports that Carrasco has a history of license suspensions and reckless driving:

Carrasco’s New Jersey license had been suspended 23 times between 1992 and 1999, according to Motor Vehicle Commission records. The majority of the suspensions were for not paying fines and for being a persistent violator, agency spokesman Mike Horan said.

He has been in good standing since 1999, getting points off his license every year since then, Horan said. Before Friday’s charges, the last violation he received was for talking on a cell phone in January.

According to attorney Steve Vaccaro of Rankin & Taylor, potential charges range from a violation of VTL 1146 — the enforcement mechanism behind Hayley and Diego’s Law and Elle’s Law (pre-schooler Elle Vandenberghe suffered brain damage when she was hit by a driver backing up in pursuit of a parking spot) — to second degree murder, if the driver in fact heard and understood a warning shouted to him. Vaccaro believes criminally negligent homicide is “the highest charge that might actually be applied.” (Disclosure: Streetsblog has retained Vaccaro for legal services to expedite freedom of information requests.)

“The ‘rule of two’ is met here because driver was backing up unsafely (violation number one) and driving with a suspended license (violation number two),” says Vaccaro. “Alternatively, the court looks to whether the driver created a risk as opposed to failing to perceive one. Here, one can say the driver created the risk by backing up quickly in the direction opposite the flow of traffic.”

The so-called “rule of two” is an arbitrary precedent that, when adhered to, requires a driver be suspected of two simultaneous offenses in order to be considered negligent. As a candidate for district attorney in 2009, Vance stated that he was ready to challenge that standard.

A witness told DNAinfo that “the SUV was moving fast” and that Casal and Emmanuel “had the right of way.”