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Beattie v. State

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

March 27, 2014

BRUCE JOHN BEATTIE
v.
STATE OF MARYLAND

Page 907

Zarnoch, Graeff, Hotten, JJ.

OPINION

Page 908

[216 Md.App. 670] Graeff, J.

Appellant, Bruce Beattie, was convicted in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County of criminally negligent manslaughter, reckless driving, negligent driving, failing to obey the driving rules for laned roadways, and making an illegal U-turn. The court sentenced appellant to one year incarceration for the conviction of criminally negligent manslaughter.[1]

On appeal, appellant presents two questions for our review, which we have rephrased slightly:

1. Did the circuit court err in denying appellant's motion to dismiss the indictment on the ground that Md. Code (2011 Supp.) § 2-210 of the Criminal Law Article (" CL" ), governing criminally negligent manslaughter, is unconstitutionally vague?
2. Was the evidence sufficient to support appellant's conviction for criminally negligent manslaughter?

For the reasons set forth below, we shall affirm the judgments of the circuit court.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

In the early morning hours of October 22, 2011, appellant, a commercial tractor trailer driver, was driving eastbound on I-70, when he realized he was lost. He called Charles Cobb, a driver with the same company, for help with directions. Appellant called Mr. Cobb using a hands-free

Page 909

headset in his truck, and they spoke for approximately twenty minutes.

Appellant told Mr. Cobb that he was on I-70 east. Mr. Cobb advised that I-70 " dead ends into a park and ride," and appellant needed to be driving on I-70 west. Appellant pulled over and attempted to locate a map, but he could not find one. [216 Md.App. 671] He then looked around and saw a " center pull through" area in the median, leading to I-70 westbound.

Appellant was aware that he was not allowed to use the pull through area, which was a break in the grassy median for emergency vehicles.[2] He was wary, however, to get off the highway at an exit that might not take him in the direction he needed to go. Observing that there was " hardly any traffic on the road," appellant looked around the bend in the road and saw that " everything was clear" for about a quarter of a mile. He was unable to see anything beyond that point due to the curve in the road behind him. Appellant decided to pull out from the shoulder of the road and cross the three lanes of I-70 east to turn around using the emergency access in the median. Before pulling out from the shoulder into the travel lanes, appellant looked for oncoming traffic, but after he pulled out, he was looking across the roadway toward the median.

As he pulled onto the highway to attempt to reach the median, appellant told Mr. Cobb that " two vehicles were bearing down on him at a high rate of speed." He stated that one vehicle appeared to pass him, and then stated: " I think someone ran into me." He felt the impact when his vehicle was halfway between the shoulder and the median. While still on the line with Mr. Cobb, appellant got out of the truck to inspect the damage, and upon returning stated: " I believe this person has passed. I gotta go. I have, I have to call 911." The driver of the vehicle that collided with appellant's truck was Michael Neimus.

Mr. Neimus' friend, Raymond Bradshaw, testified that he met Mr. Neimus at 10:00 p.m. the evening of October 21, 2011, at Union Jack's, a restaurant and bar in Columbia. The two men stayed at the bar for several hours, talking and drinking, and they left " a little bit before closing," just prior to 2:00 a.m. on October 22, 2011. Mr. Bradshaw and Mr. Neimus lived [216 Md.App. 672] close to each other in Baltimore County, and after leaving the bar, they planned to go to one of their houses. They drove in their respective cars toward their homes. Mr. Neimus was driving in front of Mr. Bradshaw in the middle lane of I-70.

As they crossed over an overpass, Mr. Bradshaw saw a truck on the shoulder of the road. Immediately after he saw the truck, the truck " swung out" from the shoulder onto the roadway, leading him to believe the truck was taking a wide turn to get back onto the road. The truck, however, did not get into one of the eastbound lanes, but rather, it " kept on coming," blocking " the whole highway." Mr. Bradshaw and Mr. Neimus both swerved into the left lane to try to avoid the truck, and then swerved back to the right as the truck blocked the roadway. Because Mr. Bradshaw was several car lengths behind Mr. Neimus, he had more time to move to the right. Mr. Neimus could not get to the right of the truck fast enough, and he hit the back right side of the truck before driving off the road. Crash reconstruction experts at the scene determined that Mr.

Page 910

Neimus was less than a foot away from avoiding the truck completely.

Both Mr. Neimus and Mr. Bradshaw were driving approximately 65 miles per hour at the time they went over the overpass and saw the truck; the speed limit on that portion of I-70 was 65 miles per hour. After Mr. Bradshaw successfully swerved around the truck, he pulled over and stopped his car. He approached Mr. Neimus' vehicle and saw that Mr. Neimus' truck had fire underneath it, and Mr. Neimus' body had been pushed into the backseat. Mr. Bradshaw tried to get Mr. Neimus to respond, but he realized " it was done."

Mr. Bradshaw stayed at the scene of the accident and waited for the police and paramedics to arrive. He gave oral and signed written statements to police describing what he observed. Investigators at the crash scene recovered one gram of marijuana from Mr. Neimus; Mr. Bradshaw was unaware that Mr. Neimus had marijuana on him. Mr. Neimus' [216 Md.App. 673] blood alcohol level later was determined to be .14.[3]

Trooper Boyce, a member of the Maryland State Police, received a call at 2:57 a.m. regarding a collision on I-70 eastbound. When he arrived at the scene, he saw a Silver Chevy Tahoe on the right shoulder with " heavy front end damage" and a white tractor trailer in the emergency vehicle crossover. The fire department had all lanes on I-70 blocked due to the collision.

Trooper Boyce approached the Chevy Tahoe and saw that the driver, Mr. Neimus, was deceased. Thereafter, he spoke to appellant. Appellant initially told Trooper Boyce that he had pulled his truck onto the right shoulder in order to look at a map, and he was struck from the rear by another vehicle. Trooper Boyce asked appellant to memorialize his account on a Driver Witness Statement form, and appellant recounted the same version of events that he told Trooper Boyce.

Trooper Bedell, the Collision Investigator for the Maryland State Police Crash Team and an expert in the field of accident reconstruction, responded to the scene at approximately 4:30 a.m. He read the witness statements provided by appellant and Mr. Bradshaw. He then approached appellant, who was still at the scene, and they walked the area of the collision together. Appellant gave Trooper Bedell an account of the accident that matched his written statement, asserting that he had been on the right shoulder looking at a map with his hazard lights on, and as he began to pull out into traffic, a vehicle struck the rear of his trailer. After the impact, appellant pulled into the emergency vehicle crossover area. Trooper Bedell asked appellant why he had pulled into the ...


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