While hanging out one evening at a playground in 2017, five Indianapolis teenagers got into an argument with two women nearby who were searching for a drone owned by Daniel Cannon. When asked if they wanted to fight, the teens got back into their vehicle, drove toward the women as if to hit them, and then moved on to the street.
Meanwhile, Cannon pulled up tightly next to the teenagers’ car, preventing the driver’s side occupants from opening the door. The teens attempted to evade Cannon’s vehicle, which pursued directly behind them onto I-70 at high speeds. When the driver of the teens’ vehicle tried to take an exit off of the interstate and then redirect back onto I-70, their vehicle flipped six times, ejecting all of the teens but one, who was wearing a seatbelt. Two teens died, and the remaining teens suffered serious injuries.
Cannon, whose vehicle never made physical contact with the teen’s vehicle, was ultimately convicted of two counts of criminal recklessness resulting in death, as Level 5 felonies; three counts of criminal recklessness resulting in serious bodily injury, as Level 6 felonies; leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death, a Level 5 felony; and leaving the scene of an accident with serious bodily injury, a Level 6 felony. The trial court sentenced Cannon to six years executed.
Challenging all but one of his criminal recklessness convictions, Cannon argued on appeal the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his criminal recklessness convictions related to the four teenagers who were not wearing their seatbelts at the time of the accident. Specifically, he contended that insufficient evidence supported his challenged convictions because the four teenagers’ failure to wear their seatbelts constituted an “intervening cause that broke the chain of causation of [his] fault for their injuries.”
The Indiana Court of Appeals disagreed in Daniel Cannon v. State of Indiana, 19A-CR-1036, affirming Cannon’s sentence and finding that his argument failed for two reasons.
First, the appellate court found it was foreseeable that some or all of the teenagers might fail to wear their seatbelts in 2017, and therefore, the failure to wear a seatbelt was not an intervening cause relieving Cannon of criminal liability. Appellate judges were also unpersuaded that the teens’ decision to re-enter the interstate from the exit ramp constituted an intervening cause “given that this was a high-speed chase in which both parties were driving erratically on a heavily congested interstate.”
“Second, Cannon asserts that ‘[h]ad all five of the teenagers been wearing their seatbelts, they likely would have suffered relatively minor injuries.’ Assuming arguendo that failure to wear a seatbelt constitutes an intervening cause, the undisputed fact that Olivia (Evans) was wearing her seatbelt during the accident and still suffered serious bodily injury completely undercuts Cannon’s argument to this point,” Judge Margret Robb wrote for the appellate court.
“In sum, because Cannon’s aggressive driving, that resulted in the death and serious bodily injury of other persons, was the proximate cause of the deaths and injuries and the teenagers’ failure to wear their seatbelts is not an intervening cause breaking the chain of causation, we conclude the evidence is sufficient to support his convictions,” the appellate court concluded.