Bel Air man acquitted in crash that killed friend, but gets 60 days for DUI

April 10, 1994|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,Sun Staff Writer

A 22-year-old Bel Air man was acquitted of automobile manslaughter but drew a 60-day jail sentence for driving under the influence of alcohol in a car crash that killed his best friend.

Thomas Lee Greenfield of the 500 block of Westview Road was 20 at the time of the accident in which 19-year-old Mark Eric Adams died on a rural section of Ruffs Mill Road.

Mr. Adams had been a passenger in Mr. Greenfield's 1979 Corvette when it slammed into a telephone pole after the two men had left a 1993 New Year's Eve party.

Mr. Greenfield, who was ejected from the sports car, was flown to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where he was treated for head and rib injuries.

The Harford Circuit Court jury of seven men and five women deliberated six hours before returning its verdict April 1 to Judge Stephen M. Waldron.

The jury also found Mr. Greenfield innocent of driving while intoxicated but found him guilty of the DUI charge, reckless driving, negligent driving, and exceeding a reasonable and prudent speed limit.

The stretch of Ruffs Mill Road where the crash occurred has a 30 mph speed limit, said prosecutor Diana A. Brooks, an assistant state's attorney. Mr. Greenfield's exact speed could not be determined, police said.

Judge Waldron made Mr. Greenfield eligible for work release during his incarceration at the Harford County Detention Center.

The judge also imposed a $1,000 fine for the reckless driving charge and merged the other two charges.

The defendant also must pay $775 in court costs.

key trial issue was a blood test given to Mr. Greenfield at Shock Trauma more than an hour after the accident.

Evidence showed Mr. Greenfield's blood-alcohol level was 0.13. But Augustus Brown, the defendant's attorney, called the assumptions and explanations made by the state's expert witness -- Dr. Yale Caplan, chief of toxicology for the state medical examiner's office -- unfair because the doctor was basing opinions on medical terms and not legal terms.

The legal standard of alcohol in the blood for a DWI charge is 0.08, but that applies when the test is performed at the request of law enforcement agents.

Mr. Brown objected to Dr. Caplan's saying an 0.05 blood-alcohol level is sufficient for intoxication because the statement is inconsistent with the law.

Mr. Brown said evidence showed that his client had been seen with one beer during the evening.

"That certainly doesn't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was drunk," Mr. Brown said.

Furthermore, defense witnesses Thomas Harrington and June Potter, emergency medical technicians for the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company, testified that they did not smell alcohol on Mr. Greenfield's breath as they rendered first aid at the scene.

Mr. Brown said his client, a machinist for a Forest Hill firm, left a party to help Mr. Adams look for his girlfriend, who had left early.

Mr. Brown said his client was confused by the headlights of an oncoming car and steered to the right. Mr. Greenfield then struck a mailbox and the edge of a ditch before his car went out of control.

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