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8-year sentence upheld for teen who killed friend while street racing

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A Madison County man who crashed his car while street racing, which killed one passenger and injured two others, could not convince the Indiana Court of Appeals that the trial court erred in declining to give a lesser-included instruction of reckless driving at his trial for reckless homicide.

In Paul J. Coy v. State of Indiana, 48A02-1301-CR-65, 19-year-old Paul Coy picked up 17-year-old Darian Hurn and two female teens from school early. The group met up with Mike Ducheteau and his friends. Hurn asked if Ducheteau wanted to race. While racing on the rural two-lane road, Coy’s car got up to 106 mph. He lost control and crashed, severely injuring Hurn and the teen girls. Hurn died the next day from his injuries.

Coy was charged with and convicted of Class C felony reckless homicide and two counts of Class C felony criminal recklessness. As a condition of being released on bond, he signed a protective order promising not to have any contact with anyone in the car. Despite this, he continued to communicate with A.K., one of the teen girls, who was his girlfriend.

He requested an instruction for reckless driving be provided as a lesser-included offense of reckless homicide; the court refused. He was sentenced to eight years on the homicide charge and three years each for the criminal recklessness charges, to be served concurrently.

Coy asserted the following: that the trial court erred in refusing to allow the lesser-included offense of reckless driving to be argued and included in the jury instructions; that the state presented a fatal variation between the charging information and the proof at trial; that the trial court abused its discretion in imposing the maximum sentence for reckless homicide; and that his sentence is inappropriate in light of the nature of the offense and his character.

The Court of Appeals found Coy waived the issue of the lesser-included offense instruction, but waiver notwithstanding, because there was no serious evidentiary dispute over the elements that distinguish the crime charged from the lesser-included offense, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in failing to give an instruction for Class B misdemeanor reckless driving.

The judges also found there was not a fatal variation in the charging information and that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by considering aggravators and failing to consider or give proper weight to mitigators. Coy’s eight-year sentence is appropriate in light of the nature of the offenses and his character, the judges concluded. He only had one previous speeding ticket, but through his actions, has shown a disregard for the law, including speaking with A.K. after being ordered not to.

 

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