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A state appeals court panel has ordered a new trial for a central Pennsylvania man who is serving a prison sentence after being convicted of homicide by vehicle and other charges for a car-train crash that killed his fiancée.
Akim Sharif Jones-Williams must be retried because state police secured samples of his blood for intoxication testing without his consent and without first securing a search warrant, Judge Judith Ference Olson found in the Superior Court’s opinion.
The new trial order comes more than three years after a York County jury convicted Jones-Williams, now XX, on the homicide by vehicle charge and other counts including, DUI and aggravated assault for the July 2014 collision with the train at Slonnekers Landing near York Haven. The crash killed Williams’ fiancée Cori Sisti and injured the couple’s daughter.
Jones-Williams was sentenced to 4 to 8 years in prison.
Olson concluded his convictions and sentence must be voided because a county judge should have approved a defense request to prevent prosecutors from presenting the jury with blood test evidence that Jones-Williams had used marijuana before the crash. She noted police suspected drug use because the train conductor and EMTs who treated the crash victims reported Jones-Williams smelled of marijuana.
A police officer secured a blood sample from the hospital where Jones-Williams was being treated while Jones-Williams was lapsing in and out of consciousness and so was unable to consent to a blood draw, Olson noted. The officer didn’t secure a search warrant for the hospital sample.
The county judge rejected the evidence suppression request on grounds that “exigent circumstances” existed because of Jones-Williams’ medical condition and the chaotic situation of the crash that justified the warrantless search. That was the wrong call, Olson said, ruling that the warrantless search violated Jones-Williams’ constitutional right against unreasonable search and seizure.
This article first appeared on www.pennlive.com
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