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Verdict in LeMaster Killing

tromano

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I am not ok with people going to prison for stuff like this.

It seems like that's what many here want.

Maybe we should indict for every hard foul in bball or pitching inside?
 
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Seldomski

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Manslaughter is generally charged when a person consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk and engages in grossly deviant behavior. Different jurisdictions have different definitions, etc. but overall much more complicated than “the uphill skier hit the downhill skier and the downhill skier died; case closed.”

Thanks for the explanation.
 

jmeb

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I found it far easier to see these events clearly and make online pronouncements about what should happen before I worked on collision scenes.

They are inherently chaotic. Multiple patients. Often acquaintances/family of those victims. Early-season crowds still coming down the hill. The scene on hill is not documented and preserved in the way that a CSI-drama would have you believe. The priority is quickly assessing, triaging, and moving patients either to a safer location or a higher level of care. (The only time a patroller is going to pull out a camera or take measurements in CO right away is when a lift or terrain park is involved as those aren't covered by the CO Skier Safety Act.)

Like @Lauren I can see both a horrible tragedy and lack of evidence for criminal manslaughter at the same time.
 

tball

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Boarder watched him from above, “weaving back and forth”. That’s some time.
Pretty much case closed, esp given the disparity in injuries, we know the speed involved.
And the boarder had time to yell "left, left, left" but didn't slow down or give a wide enough berth to avoid a collision.

I'm not sure how the law defines reckless, but that's reckless to me.
 

dan ross

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. All I can add is a little historical perspective. In January 1980 I was hit by a drunk driver head on at 70 mph. If I hadn’t ducked I wouldn’t be writing this. The drunk driver got a one year suspension of his license. Now, the penalty would be much stiffer. The disincentives for reckless driving have become far greater but it took awhile. It seems as if the disincentives for reckless behavior on the slopes are not doing enough to make the point. I’m not sure what the answer is in any case
 

coskigirl

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I don't understand why a manslaughter charge cannot be pursued?

Is it because there are no credible witnesses to the crime other than the snowboarder himself? In other words, a lack of evidence?

The Ski Safety Act is explicit in noting a skier/skier collision is not an inherent risk to skiing itself. The fact that LeMaster was clearly downhill of the boarder and a collision followed seems like enough facts to me. What am I missing?

There are no teeth in the Oregon law either. A violation of the skier responsibilities can result in loss of ski pass:

"Violation of any of the duties of skiers set forth in subsection (1) of this section entitles the ski area operator to withdraw the violator’s privilege of skiing. [1979 c.665 §4]"



"There are multiple reasons why the prosecution didn’t push for a manslaughter charge:“no one saw Martinez snowboarding out of control, and he didn’t admit to being out of control, and investigators couldn’t determine if he was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, prosecutors couldn’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Martinez was guilty of manslaughter.” The LeMaster family is waiting till the end of the criminal trial for an official verdict, but they are considering legal action against Martinez."

I'm on the other end of the spectrum...I'm trying to figure out how so many people are certain that the snowboarder was completely at fault...enough to convict him of manslaughter.

There are multiple threads here (or posts on social media) that show actual VIDEO of people colliding, and there are still arguments of who's at fault. Yet, we have an instance where the only evidence of what happened is a couple quotes from very biased witnesses (the snowboarder and LeMaster's friend)...one of which might have had a concussion (and I'm sure that could get played up in court pretty easily). What else was in the Sheriff's Report...? Did either of those witnesses describe anything else? What about the 1st person to get to the scene...the one that grabbed the cell phone and handed it back to Reece?

What am I missing?

And the boarder had time to yell "left, left, left" but didn't slow down or give a wide enough berth to avoid a collision.

I'm not sure how the law defines reckless, but that's reckless to me.

I think the key here is that Colorado law requires that to be guilty of manslaughter "you cause a death recklessly when you act in a manner that involves substantial and unjustifiable risk of death and although you are conscious of the risk, you nevertheless choose to engage in the action." or "to be guilty of reckless manslaughter, it is not necessary that you specifically intended to cause someone’s death. Rather, it requires that you knowingly engaged in conduct that created a substantial and unjustifiable risk of causing death."

So, is attempting to pass a skier creating a substantial and unjustifiable risk of death? To my knowledge we don't have information on whether the snowboarder attempted to slow down or at least the information can't be proven. We also don't know how close they were when the direction change happened nor do we know the difference in size of the two people that might have contributed to the severity of LeMaster's injuries. There are a lot of assumptions being made regarding what people are sure happened but we really can't be sure as Lauren pointed out. To be clear, if the assumptions people are making about speed/control/etc. are what happened and could be proven, I think the DA would have charged it. I sat on a jury in Boulder a few years ago where they charged battery for a slapped hand. The public wanted accountability for the death of a well-loved local. They just couldn't get to a point where they felt they had that case. As for the lower fine, well, that seems a bit ridiculous to me and I think it should have been maximized.

If you knew that someone was convicted of manslaughter would you reconsider passing slower skiers for fear of a sudden change in direction? Does it make more sense to speed up and attempt to get by quicker or slow down and have a risk present for longer? How does that affect your ski experience?
 

dan ross

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IF I understand this correctly- and I may not , the snowboarder yelled “ left, left, left” but made no attempt to slow down or otherwise avoid the skier-and then fled the scene? Correct?
 

coskigirl

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IF I understand this correctly- and I may not , the snowboarder yelled “ left, left, left” but made no attempt to slow down or otherwise avoid the skier-and then fled the scene? Correct?

I don't think there is confirmed information about whether an attempt to slow down or otherwise avoid occurred. They did leave the scene but that doesn't prove intent to cause the harm, only an extremely poor choice in how to handle the situation after it occurred.
 

Tom K.

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Well, they should have at least given him the max penalty for what he was charged with, since it wasn't much.
 

crgildart

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I am not ok with people going to prison for stuff like this.

It seems like that's what many here want.

Maybe we should indict for every hard foul in bball or pitching inside?
This was an adult.. going way faster than the point where they could maintain reasonable control of their ability to avoid a horrific collision... on a run with some traffic..

But carry on with the toddler t-ball hyperbole..
 

Seldomski

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If you knew that someone was convicted of manslaughter would you reconsider passing slower skiers for fear of a sudden change in direction? Does it make more sense to speed up and attempt to get by quicker or slow down and have a risk present for longer? How does that affect your ski experience?
If I knew, no, I wouldn't change how I pass people. I am pretty far over onto the cautious side however. I have seen people do all sorts of things when they get passed, including the one being passed speeding up to save their ego or as a 'screw you' move. Sometimes even forcing the would be passer to a speed they cannot ski safely at and/or nearly driving whoever is passing off into the woods.

If the bunch in the court room were skiers and thought 'yeah, that doesn't sound too crazy to pass in that circumstance' I feel like either 1) the facts/evidence are so murky/lacking that nothing can be determined with certainty for this case 2) there are some more facts than are available publicly 3) there's an education problem in what "reckless" actually means on the slopes as it relates to passing safely.
 

coskigirl

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If I knew, no, I wouldn't change how I pass people. I am pretty far over onto the cautious side however. I have seen people do all sorts of things when they get passed, including the one being passed speeding up to save their ego or as a 'screw you' move. Sometimes even forcing the would be passer to a speed they cannot ski safely at and/or nearly driving whoever is passing off into the woods.

If the bunch in the court room were skiers and thought 'yeah, that doesn't sound too crazy to pass in that circumstance' I feel like either 1) the facts/evidence are so murky/lacking that nothing can be determined with certainty for this case 2) there are some more facts than are available publicly 3) there's an education problem in what "reckless" actually means on the slopes as it relates to passing safely.

Do you mean the jury that heard this case or are you speaking hypothetically for a jury that would have heard a case about manslaughter? If you mean this case, those facts weren't applicable to the charge which is merely that he left the scene after a collision that caused injury. If a hypothetical case I agree with what you've said but I'll say that the education of the jury on what reckless means under the law is up to the attorneys.

In the case I sat on the decision came down to a definition but probably only because I was so focused on meeting the elements of the crime. In that case, the elements required "bodily injury" but that is defined to include everything from pain on up to what a lay person thinks of injury. The victim (a husband who didn't want the charges brought and who testified pleading the 5th on most of the questions asked) never said the slap of the hand caused him pain. Based on that, there wasn't a crime that met the required elements. The prosecutor focused a lot on the fact that it didn't even have to leave a mark but forgot to make sure we knew it met the lower threshold. I'm guessing he'll never seat a law student by choice again. I talked to my criminal law prof afterwards and he was fascinated by the whole thing.
 

dan ross

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Do you mean the jury that heard this case or are you speaking hypothetically for a jury that would have heard a case about manslaughter? If you mean this case, those facts weren't applicable to the charge which is merely that he left the scene after a collision that caused injury. If a hypothetical case I agree with what you've said but I'll say that the education of the jury on what reckless means under the law is up to the attorneys.

In the case I sat on the decision came down to a definition but probably only because I was so focused on meeting the elements of the crime. In that case, the elements required "bodily injury" but that is defined to include everything from pain on up to what a lay person thinks of injury. The victim (a husband who didn't want the charges brought and who testified pleading the 5th on most of the questions asked) never said the slap of the hand caused him pain. Based on that, there wasn't a crime that met the required elements. The prosecutor focused a lot on the fact that it didn't even have to leave a mark but forgot to make sure we knew it met the lower threshold. I'm guessing he'll never seat a law student by choice again. I talked to my criminal law prof afterwards and he was fascinated by the whole thing.
@coskigirl ; does this hypothetical correlate with the accident- say I’m driving down a street , exceeding the speed limit or perhaps driving too fast for the conditions. I see a person crossing the street and I honk my horn but make A, no attempt to slow down or B, I’m driving so fast that I can’t stop in time to avoid the pedestrian. I then leave the scene.
I know that vehicular law has its own strictures and specific codes but the recklessness seems to be the cause in both cases. Is it that we ( the law) don’t think of a human body hurtling down a slope to be as dangerous as a moving vehicle? As a layperson, I’m genuinely curious as to how the law generally looks at this.
 

tromano

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This was an adult.. going way faster than the point where they could maintain reasonable control of their ability to avoid a horrific collision... on a run with some traffic..

But carry on with the toddler t-ball hyperbole..
I am generally aware of the news on this story. I don't really have any issue with the outcome of the trail.

But I am surprised by the number of people who think they know better and want harsher punishment.

Doubt that greater criminalization in skiing would be beneficial for anyone.
 
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dan ross

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I am generally aware of the news on this story. I don't really have any issue with the outcome of the trail.

But I am surprised by the number of people who think they know better and want harsher punishment.

Doubt that greater criminalization in skiing would be beneficial for anyone.
I don’t know what you mean by “ greater” criminalization.
What I think we all or most of us except is a level of responsibility. Most of us accept the inherent risk involved in skiing but when it starts to resemble Thunderdome on the slopes , some serious reflection regarding the code which is designed to keep us all reasonably safe , is not asking much. Or, we can leave to the areas and resorts themselves as accidents and lawsuits are bad for business.
 

coskigirl

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@coskigirl ; does this hypothetical correlate with the accident- say I’m driving down a street , exceeding the speed limit or perhaps driving too fast for the conditions. I see a person crossing the street and I honk my horn but make A, no attempt to slow down or B, I’m driving so fast that I can’t stop in time to avoid the pedestrian. I then leave the scene.
I know that vehicular law has its own strictures and specific codes but the recklessness seems to be the cause in both cases. Is it that we ( the law) don’t think of a human body hurtling down a slope to be as dangerous as a moving vehicle? As a layperson, I’m genuinely curious as to how the law generally looks at this.

To be clear, I am not a criminal attorney so my knowledge is based on 1 crim law class and studying for the bar exam and general knowledge of how laws work.

That's a good analogy but I think there is one big difference in that if you are speeding there's a hard line number so if someone can prove you were speeding, they can likely prove unjustifiable risk. However, the too fast for conditions is probably a closer analogy and would be difficult. But, this still ignores the other questions I brought up which is we don't know if there was no attempt and we don't know when the change in direction happened. In 2005 I was driving down the road and a dog suddenly ran in front of my car. All witnesses (including the owner) said I didn't have a chance because it was so sudden. I did actually leave the scene but it was with the owner and another witness to take the dog to an emergency vet. Did the pedestrian in your example do something similar? Were they walking along a sidewalk and suddenly change direction to cross the street without warning when you were mere feet from their location?
 

crosscountry

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I can ski in total control and fail to see someone due to blind spot or simply brain fart. Or I misjudge what type of maneuver the skier below/ahead could do next and they end up in 'my line.' I'm still at fault.
You're at fault of poor judgement. Not murder.

How many times someone make poor judgement? Some people make a lot. Some not so many. But is anyone so arrogant to say he never made poor decisions? And if that bad decision resulted in harming others, there maybe civil suits. Putting someone like that in jail isn't the best "justice".

Hypothetically, the boarder saw a skilled skier executing a predictable pattern in a narrow corridor. How many here wouldn't pass relatively close by? As the expectation is such a skier will NOT make a sudden change of direction! Yet, the victim did a "lane change"... the boarder had no time to do evasive movement.
 

François Pugh

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You are carrying deadly speed and see someone ahead of you on the run you are on. There is a potential you may collide with that person, and instead of slowing down, you continue at deadly speed. Sounds like criminal negligence causing death to me.
OR you are on a run where you cannot see if there is anyone in front of you in time to slow down from your deadly speed. Seems pretty cut and dried. But I'm no expert on law, and I know the law varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
 

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