The garbage truck driver who struck and killed two British tourists in Manhattan last February was convicted on two counts of second-degree murder yesterday.
Scarlett was also convicted of assault, presumably for injuring a third pedestrian, Abayomi Henderson, who seconds earlier had walked around the couple as they strolled down the sidewalk.
While it's not unheard of for a sober city driver to be charged for killing someone -- in cases of drag racing, for instance-- it is, as Streetsblog readers know, extremely rare, and even more so for prosecutors to secure a murder conviction.
"I can't recall any prior instance in which a killer driver who wasn't intoxicated was convicted of murder," says Charles Komanoff, long-time pedestrian safety advocate and author of Killed By Automobile, "and that includes many of the roughly 200 fatal instances since 1990 when the driver mounted the sidewalk."
Komanoff cites several such cases in which drivers whose negligence resulted in death were given a slap on the wrist, or were subject to no legal sanctions at all. Stella Maychick, mistaking the gas pedal for the brake, killed six people and injured two dozen in Washington Square Park in April 1992: no charges filed. Isaac Chehebar, joy-riding at twice the speed limit on Ocean Parkway, killed sisters Inna and Svetlana Shetman and maimed their mother Rima Shetman in April 2001: plea-bargained by Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes to four months. And most recently, delivery driver Chao Fu, leaving his van with the engine running and the gear in reverse, killed toddlers Diego Martinez and Hayley Ng in Chinatown last January: no charges filed.
The decision to prosecute Scarlett for manslaughter and criminally
negligent homicide was announced almost immediately. "Apparently, he
stopped taking his medication," an NYPD spokeswoman said the day after
the crash. "It was a conscious decision, so he's being charged." Why Auvryn Scarlett and not Chao Fu? Local coverage of the trial was scant, but a BBC report offers some insight: