Joseph Ford Jury Verdict
Guilty: Drunk Driving Causing Death
Guilty: Reckless Driving Causing Death
Joseph Ford stood trial last week in the Kent County Circuit Court in Grand Rapids, MI. The 27 year old Kentwood man was charged with two counts of drunk driving which resulted in the deaths of Eric Fischer and Andrea Herrera last year in October. Ford is accused of having driven drunk, run a red light, and slammed into the car carrying Fischer and Herrera, pushing it into the path of an oncoming semi-truck.
In this Kent County Drunk Driving case, the trial began on Wednesday with the opening arguments from defense attorney Mark Dodge and Kent County Assistant Prosecutor James Benison. The first day of the trial brought testimony from two bartenders who had served Ford alcohol on that night. Both claimed to have served him multiple drinks and both also testified that they had noticed that Ford’s pupils were misshapen.
George Buursma, a friend who was with Ford at the restaurant that night told the court that Ford had driven him home during the ninth inning of the game, and he hadn’t noticed any problems with Ford’s behavior or abilities.
Eric Walton, the driver of the semi-truck that struck Fischer and Herrera’s car was called as a witness on the second day of trial. He apparently became emotional when shown pictures of Fischer and Herrera’s mangled car. A recording of his 911 call was played in court. The defense challenged him on whether or not he was paying attention to the road at the time of the crash, but Walton argued that he is a very thorough driver and Ford “came out of nowhere.”
The prosecution introduced forensic analysis done by the state police, claiming that Ford’s blood contained amphetamines, morphine and promethazine. Defense tried to cast doubt on the test results by asking whether the isopropyl alcohol used to sterilize blood-draw needles could impact the test. Experts for the prosecution claimed that it could not.
During closing arguments, Dodge called the case questionable, stating that it was a “borderline blood-alcohol case” because the state police blood draw on Ford had come back at .087, which is just above the legal limit of .08. He also pointed out that testing had shown that Fisher, the young man killed in the accident, had also been drunk. Dodge asked the jury to consider that in their deliberations.
Benison, countered that argument by saying that there was no evidence that Fischer was at fault and several witnesses had testified that they believed he had a green left-turn arrow when his car was struck. “Just because the other guy is drunk,” he said, “it doesn’t mean you get a free pass to kill him.”
The jury began deliberations at 9:30 this morning. Ford faces the possibility of 15 years in prison. Although, as a practical matter, he will likely served less than that. The Michigan Sentencing Guidelines will be calculated and the score will be reported to the judge for sentencing. In Michigan, the sentencing guidelines tend to control the sentence because a judge must be able to state a substantial and compelling reason for departing from them with either a higher or lower sentence. Many people convicted of this crime have served five years or less. Normally sentencing occurs in about 30 days from the date of conviction.
When asked to comment on the case, Lansing Drunk Driving Attorney John English stated, ” The best advice I ever give is don’t get behind the wheel if you have consumed alcohol or drugs. These cases are always tragic for both families. My sincere condolences go out to the families involved.”