Manslaughter conviction for driver with epilepsy
Ellicott City man killed in Beltway crash in 2007
By Luke Broadwater
A 28-year-old Halethorpe woman was sentenced to 30 weekends in jail Monday in what’s believed to be the first case in Maryland in which a person who suffered epilepsy-related problems while driving was convicted of vehicular manslaughter after a fatal crash.
Baltimore County Circuit Judge Mickey Norman also sentenced Michele Bosley to 10 months of home detention, five years of supervised probation, during which time she may not drive a car, and a 10-year suspended prison sentence.
“If you drive an automobile, young lady, you will be in jail for 10 years faster than you can blink an eye,” Norman said.
On April 23, 2007, Kirk Mercer, of Ellicott City, was driving onto the Beltway from Liberty Road when Bosley, who fell unconscious while traveling home from work, drove her car at 60 miles per hour across the Beltway, crashing into Mercer’s car and killing him.
Both the judge and the prosecutor in the case, Allan Webster, attributed the crash to an epileptic seizure, while the defense attorney, Mark Van Bavel, maintained that epilepsy medication Bosley was taking caused her to black out.
“I’ve learned my lesson,” a tearful Bosley told the judge.
“I’ve voluntarily surrendered my license to the MVA. ... I just took the medicine I was prescribed. I didn’t know the effect it could have on me.
“I’m in pain 24 hours a day, seven days a week because of” the accident.
Before sentencing Bosley, Norman heard from Mercer’s wife, Helen Mercer, who read parts of a personal journal in which she recounts life with her husband.
Mercer described how Kirk spontaneously left love notes around the house for her; how he texted funny pictures to her cell phone during her lunch break; and what an outstanding father he had been to their children, Kyle and Christina.
“Nothing could be harder than taking in the news of having lost my husband suddenly,” she said.
Webster said Bosley had a history of causing accidents due to epilepsy-related seizures, but had continued driving anyway.
“The only one who is responsible is Ms. Bosley, no one else,” the prosecutor said.
Gary Gross, director of the Epilepsy Legal Defense Fund at the Epilepsy Foundation, said his organization strongly objects to prosecutors placing criminal blame on people with medical conditions.
Gross said a three-year study found that of the approximate 44,000 traffic deaths in the United States annually, people suffering epileptic seizures are the cause of only 89 on average, while 1,257 are caused by drivers having episodes related to cardiac disease or hypertension.
Gross said no one is ever prosecuted in a crash related to a driver having a heart attack.
“If someone is taking medication, and complied with their state Motor Vehicle Administration, and there’s no indication that a seizure is imminent, a criminal prosecution is not appropriate,” Gross said.
Van Bavel, the defense attorney, argued for a new trial, saying it was Bosley’s medication, Trilpetal, that caused her sodium level to fall so low that she passed out. He said she is doing much better with a new medication prescribed to her by a different doctor and has been seizure-free for almost a year.
“She is exceedingly remorseful ... ,” Van Bavel said. “She realizes driving is out of the question at this time and maybe forever.”
Bosley has hired a cab driver to take her to and from work every day, Van Bavel said.
But Van Bavel worried his client wouldn’t be able to receive the medication she needs at the county jail.
“People don’t get the medical treatment they need in jail, regardless of what the jail says,” Van Bavel said.
Maryland law requires drivers with epilepsy to be seizure-free for three months before driving and requires medical updates on the driver at the discretion of the state’s Motor Vehicle Administration.
user comments (8)
user bojangles says...
instead of passing laws to protect md residents...Senator James Robey is finding ways to raise revenue with speed cameras on every street corner. Its time for Marylanders to wake up.
Posted 5:55 PM, 03.31.09 |
user shablap says...
I agree bojangles but I'm not sure what thatchas to do with seizures.
This driver probably should have received a stronger sentence. How is anyone going to prove her position of falling asleep?
What would the court give a drunk driver? Same difference I say.
Posted 6:51 PM, 03.31.09 |
user bojangles says...
the lowest degree of criminal malice is negligence....in the Commonwealth of VA, this individual would not see the day of light for 10 yrs.
Had this occurred in Howard County...Probation before judgement would have been granted
The first three words of the constitution is WE THE PEOPLE, it is time to take back our state
Posted 9:49 PM, 03.31.09 |
user justmyopinion says...
I cannot believe how harsh you are regarding someone with epilepsy. Would you recommend she stay home and collect disability rather than go to work? This was a horrible accident and I can sympathize with the family's loss, but I can't believe someone can be punished for this to such an extreme. What's next, convicting people with high blood pressure who have strokes and cause accidents??? How about folks with any disease that take medication?? This is insane.
Posted 3:06 PM, 04.01.09 |
user anonymouse says...
The article might have been better if it had mentioned that several doctors had told the defendant before the fatal crash that she should not drive and, like everyone else with seizures, needed to turn her license into the MVA. Driving with epilipsy may be like driving with high blood pressure. But driving when you know that you have seizures, know that they have caused you to crash before, and know that the law requires you to turn yourself in to the MVA, is that really the same?
Posted 4:56 PM, 04.01.09 |
user justmyopinion says...
anonymouse: you're right, the article should have clarified that she was well aware of the possible consequences and had been warned--that in fact her seizures were far from under control. I wonder why her license wasn't revoked if she was that unstable. My sister has had epilepsy for over 30 years, takes her medication religiously, has informed MVA (in another state) and has never caused any sort of accident. In fact, she knows when she needs to rest or prepare for the worse and puts herself in a safe situation. I would hate to think if she did have an accident, she would be treated like this woman....like a criminal.
Posted 7:31 PM, 04.01.09 |
user halethorpe says...
The MVA may not have taken her license because they weren't aware of her health situation. I renewed my license just today, and I was asked about health conditions. While I do not have any, it would be very easy for someone to lie and claim that they do not have said conditions in order to keep driving.
Posted 8:03 PM, 04.01.09 |
user citizentaxpayerjane says...
The woman who caused the accident not only had prior accidents that she blamed on epilepsy, but she was on medication and her doctors warned her against driving. She had three reasons not to drive (uncontrolled epilepsy, prior accidents, medication), and each was so fundamental that it stood on it's own as a single good reason. Tragedy for all. Heartbreaking.
Posted 8:09 PM, 04.01.09 |