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State v. Smith

Supreme Court of Minnesota

August 14, 2013

State of Minnesota, Respondent,
v.
Eddie Cortez Smith, Appellant.

Office of Appellate Courts

Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Saint Paul, Minnesota; and John Choi, Ramsey County Attorney, Kaarin Long, Assistant County Attorney, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for respondent.

Bradford Colbert, Legal Assistance to Minnesota Prisoners, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for appellant.

Page, J. Took no part, Wright and Lillehaug, JJ.

SYLLABUS

1. The district court's instruction on causation was not erroneous.

2. The evidence was sufficient for the jury to conclude that the defendant's operation of a motor vehicle was the proximate cause of the victim's death.

3. The evidence was sufficient for the jury to conclude that the victim's do-not-resuscitate order was not a superseding cause of her death.

Affirmed.

OPINION

PAGE, Justice.

After a jury trial, appellant Eddie Cortez Smith was found guilty and subsequently convicted of criminal vehicular homicide under Minn. Stat. § 609.21 (2012) for causing the death of 93-year-old Edith Schouveller in a motor vehicle accident.[1] The district court sentenced Smith to 120 months' imprisonment on the criminal vehicular homicide conviction. Smith appealed and the court of appeals affirmed. State v. Smith, 819 N.W.2d 724 (Minn.App. 2012). We affirm.

At around 10:25 a.m. on Sunday, March 28, 2010, Schouveller was a passenger in a vehicle traveling westbound on Watson Avenue in Saint Paul. As the vehicle entered the intersection with Milton Street, it was struck on the driver's side by a Pontiac Bonneville driven by Smith. Two witnesses testified that Smith's vehicle was traveling at a high rate of speed immediately before the accident. The State's accident reconstruction expert estimated that Smith's vehicle was traveling at least 53 mph at the time of the collision. The speed limit on Milton Street was 30 mph. Police took a blood sample from Smith shortly after the collision, and testing showed he had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.11.

Following the collision, Schouveller was conscious but was dazed and bleeding from her scalp. She was transported to Regions Hospital, where doctors concluded that she had life-threatening injuries. In particular, Schouveller had a large laceration of her scalp, a rapid and unstable heart rate, and evidence of a traumatic brain injury. She also had several complex fractures of her cervical spine. Schouveller's spinal cord was undamaged in the accident, but her physician was concerned that the vertebral fractures were unstable and could shift, damaging the spinal cord and rendering Schouveller a quadriplegic. Because surgery was not an option due to Schouveller's age and bone condition, doctors fitted her with a stiff cervical collar that had to be worn at all times to keep her from moving her head and disturbing the fractures.

For the next 22 days, from March 29 to April 19, 2010, Schouveller was either hospitalized or in a nursing home. During this time, her mental functioning deteriorated and her body rapidly became "deconditioned" due to lack of movement. She was unable to stand or walk, was very weak, and needed assistance to perform the most basic tasks such as sitting, positioning herself in bed, and eating. Although a complete recovery was not out of the question, Schouveller's physicians were concerned that she would not make a ...


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