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Driver in Fatal California Bicycle Accident Gets No Criminal Charges


The Shasta County District Attorney has decided not to file charges in the fatal bicycle accident case where a bicyclist was struck and killed by a car on Highway 299 in Redding two months ago. According to a news article in the Redding Record Searchlight, Sherry Mann, 58 was riding her bicycle east on the highway when Morgan Watkins, 21, drifted over to the shoulder and hit Mann while reaching into the back seat to get a baby bottle.

But district attorney’s officials have decided against filing criminal charges against Watkins because they say there is little or no physical evidence in the case and no eyewitnesses. It also seems as if Mann’s husband influenced the DA’s decision not to try Watkins on misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter charges. Officials say that without specific evidence about where the impact occurred, it is tough to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Watkins drifted over the fog line and hit Mann.

The DA’s decision has local bicyclists worried and angry. Of course, it is disturbing to many when a life is lost and the person who apparently caused the death walks away from it, uninjured and without facing any consequences. But Mann’s husband, Russell, told the newspaper that he doesn’t believe the driver deliberately hit his wife and that she probably paid a hefty price for a small mistake. He says he doesn’t believe her mistake warranted a criminal charge.

The prosecution should be commended for taking the victim’s family’s feelings into consideration before making a decision. This is probably a case where the system worked the way it should have. Sure, it was a huge tragedy for Mann’s family, but did this woman deserve to go to jail for a moment’s lapse in concentration? Who among us is not guilty of that every once in a while?

That said, there is room for a civil lawsuit to be filed in this case. Just because there wasn’t enough evidence for a criminal prosecution, it does not mean that a civil lawsuit will not succeed. Everyone of course remembers the high-profile OJ Simpson case where Simpson was found not guilty in the murders, but was found liable for the deaths of Nicole brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. The civil lawsuit resulted in a multi-million dollar jury award.

That is certainly something to bear in mind when it comes to personal injury lawsuits as well. The burden of proof in a criminal case is much higher as it should be – it involves someone’s entire life and future. But civil cases are different and where a person may not be found guilty of a crime in a criminal court, he or she may certainly be found liable for his or her actions in a civil court.

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