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Judge acquits driver in 5 deaths Man fined $2,500 in bus stop accident

Faced with doubts about circumstances surrounding an accident that killed five people at a Woodlawn bus stop last summer, a Baltimore County judge yesterday acquitted Raymond Charles Haney of charges that could have sent him to prison for 50 years.

Circuit Judge John Grason Turnbull II fined Haney $2,500 for speeding and for reckless and negligent driving -- $500 for each victim -- and ordered him to pay another $2,500 in court costs. But the judge said questions remained about whether Haney's driving justified the more serious charges of vehicular manslaughter.

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After the trial, both Haney and his victims' relatives were still grieving.

"I can't say I'm happy or anything like that," Haney said at a news conference. "I hurt inside. I feel for the family. This is something I'm going to live with for the rest of my life."

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But Charles Dorsey, who lost his wife and two of his children in the crash, said, "Mr. Haney murdered five people. How can this happen? I don't understand this!"

He was comforted outside the Towson courtroom by his brother, Calvin Dorsey, who said tearfully, "It's not fair." Meanwhile, his mother, Carrie Dorsey, who also was in tears, kept repeating, "He just walked away."

Killed in the July 20 crash near the Social Security complex were Kim Dorsey, 25; her daughters, Keisha, 7, and Chanell, 3; a niece, Jazmin Little, 5; and a nephew, Darrian Hough, 7. Another child was seriously injured.

In the two-day trial of what prosecutor Deborah L. Robinson called the "speeding bullet in the form of Raymond Haney and his Mazda," witnesses said Haney was speeding when he struck a car ahead of him, then careened onto the Woodlawn Drive sidewalk.

But Haney's lawyer raised questions about the testimony of eyewitnesses and an accident reconstructionist. And Haney, who did not testify, offered a different story after the verdict.

Attorney Warren A. Brown argued that Haney could not have been going as fast as witnesses said because he was surrounded by a cluster of cars. And even if Haney had been speeding, that was not enough to prove that he was guilty of vehicular manslaughter, which shows disregard for human life, Brown argued.

Later, Haney said he was driving "not fast at all. I was going with the flow of traffic" and changed lanes to avoid hitting a car that had jumped in front of him. "The only thing I was trying to do was react and not cause an accident."

In announcing his verdict, the judge said he had no alternative but to acquit Haney of vehicular manslaughter. He said Maryland appeals courts have defined it as behavior such as driving under the influence of alcohol, leaving an accident scene or exceeding 80 mph -- actions more extreme than the state could prove in Haney's case.

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He also noted conflicting testimony about Haney's speed.

Although most prosecution witnesses said Haney was traveling faster than 50 mph, "even the state's expert [Baltimore County Police Cpl. Patrick H. Zito] admits he has no idea the speed he was traveling . . . it could have been 30 and it could have been 50, because nobody will ever know."

During a scathing two-day cross-examination, Brown said that Zito's findings were inexact. Zito, he said, used a tape measure to calculate the distance the car traveled, relied on conflicting witness estimates of the exact spot of the crash, and did not scrutinize other drivers to see if they contributed to the accident. Zito also made errors in his first report and had to produce another one that could only calculate the speed to be over 30 mph, the lawyer said. Other witnesses who testified yesterday cast more doubt on the prosecution's case.

Brown called just two defense witnesses. Both testified that John LaVeck -- whose 1974 Camaro was struck by Haney just before he lost control and hit the family -- was also weaving, speeding and cutting off other motorists. -- LaVeck was the driver Haney claimed he had swerved to avoid.

Kim Boyd testified that LaVeck cut her off in the same area the day before and that she recognized him when she saw him on television the day of the accident. And Sonja Jean Franz testified that about a half-mile before the accident she saw a man she believed was LaVeck "cutting and zig-zagging."

When the verdict was announced, the family of the victims broke into tears, and an emotional Haney hugged his attorneys.

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Haney, 33, said later that he has returned to his hometown of Chicago, where he works in the health care industry. To get to work, he said, he relies on public transportation or rides from acquaintances, and has seldom driven since the crash.

Isaiah Dixon III, one of the prosecutors, said he was "very disappointed" with the defeat but understood the judge's finding. He said Maryland needs a negligent homicide statute that would strike a middle ground and allow prosecutors to win convictions in such cases.

Brown, who is asking that the fines be reduced, said that although Haney avoided a prison sentence, "the penalty is the lifelong wonderment about whether or not he was the true cause for the demise of these people."

Pub Date: 5/15/96


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