Jury deadlocks over fatal Carroll crash It finds drivers guilty of lesser charges, can't agree on manslaughter

November 21, 1998|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

Ruling on a Carroll County crash that left a popular teacher dead, jurors deadlocked yesterday on the most serious charges against two men involved in the June accident, but found them guilty of racing at more than 85 mph down Route 140.

After more than nine hours of deliberation over two days, the jurors could not agree on charges of automobile manslaughter and second-degree assault against Frederick H. Hensen Jr., 21, of Westminster, and Scott D. Broadfoot Sr., 25, of Parkville.

Judge Daniel W. Moylan, a visiting judge from Washington County who presided at the trial, declared a mistrial on those charges after the jurors said more time would not produce a verdict.

Assistant State's Attorney David P. Daggett said he "absolutely" will retry the manslaughter case and the assault charges in the death of Mount Airy Middle School teacher Geraldine Lane "Geri" Wu and the injuries to her daughter Min-li.

The jury found both men guilty of reckless driving, negligent driving, participating in a race or speed contest, exceeding the posted speed limit at 85 miles an hour, failing to drive at a reasonable speed and unsafe passing. Each is punishable by up to $500 in traffic fines, Daggett said.

Broadfoot also was convicted of failing to remain at the scene of an accident causing injury or death, a misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months in jail, he said. (Last month, the maximum was increased to three years.)

Defense attorneys J. Barry Hughes and Gary W. Weissner asked Moylan for presentence investigations on the traffic convictions. Both said in closing arguments Thursday that their clients were speeding, but not racing.

Wu, 42, died in the crash. Min-li, now 15 and a sophomore at Westminster High School, did not sustain permanent physical injuries but has trouble sleeping at night and her grades have dropped from A's to B's, said her father, Laurence Wu, a professor of philosophy and religious studies at Western Maryland College.

Wu said he was surprised at the verdict because "from my point of view the case seemed to be very clear and simple.

"I'm hopeful that during the retrial they will reach a guilty verdict," he said. "It takes time. I have no choice. It just must be done."

Wu had praise for the people and the system in his first contact with a criminal court. But he said Hensen's testimony of how hard the past five months have been "kind of offended me. It seems he and maybe the other have not given thought to what they have done to me and my family."

The fatal crash occurred when a maroon Nissan driven by Mark E. Eppig, 22, of Westminster went out of control near Finksburg and crossed the grass median, slamming into Mrs. Wu's Mitsubishi.

Eppig pleaded guilty to manslaughter and other charges last month and testified against Hensen and Broadfoot.

The jurors struggled during the morning with the legal definition of acting in concert, asking for a legal dictionary, according to their note to the judge, who sent a response after conferring with both sides.

During the afternoon came a note asking whether the judge would accept a hung jury on some charges and whether it would be "logical" for the jurors to vote not guilty on manslaughter but guilty on the assault charges.

"We are at a standstill until we have an answer," the jury said in its note. The judge met with the prosecutors and defense attorneys for an hour, thrashing out an acceptable answer.

Having received the judge's answer, the three men and nine women sent word of a verdict in less than an hour.

Pub Date: 11/21/98

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