Maryland's statutes on vehicular manslaughter among the most lenient in the country
Thursday, September 23 2010 @ 03:43 PM EDT
Contributed by: B' Spokes
Christy Littleford, the driver who killed Pettigrew, maintains she thought she hit an animal. She called police hours after hitting Pettigrew, apparently when she spotted a bicycle under her SUV.
Even though Littleford, 41, dragged Pettigrew's bicyle for miles, Henry doubts the woman will face a harsh punishment.
"Hit and run, vehicular manslaughter are minor-type offenses or they are treated mostly with a severe warning," Henry said.
"It took you four hours [Note that "4" hours has been highly disputed but still even at one hour, that is a long time to wait for help to start trying to get to the scene] to go to your car that you thought you hit a deer with and discover there's a bicycle wedged under your car?" said John Clendenin, a friend of Pettigrew.
Prince George's County authorities say the case is under investigation.
Traffic safety experts consider the state's statutes on vehicular manslaughter among the most lenient in the country. A prosecutor must prove gross negligence or some kind of intent to kill or maim in order to charge and convict.
"Virtually no one is charged with this crime, because proving it is so hard in court," said John Townsend of AAA MidAtlantic.
"If you shoot someone and you kill them -- what is the difference between taking a life that way and, you know, hitting somebody?" Henry asked.
Clendenin cleaned up debris from the fatal collision today and called for changing Maryland law.
"When are people going to start caring about human life?" Clendenin asked. "If you think you hit a deer, pull over and see."