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State v. Stuart

Court of Appeals of Oregon

February 15, 2017

STATE OF OREGON, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
NATHAN HOWARD STUART, Defendant-Appellant.

          Submitted October 29, 2015.

         Douglas County Circuit Court 12CR2500FE; George William Ambrosini, Judge.

          Peter Gartlan, Chief Defender, and Ingrid A. MacFarlane, Deputy Public Defender, Offce of Public Defense Services, fled the brief for appellant.

          Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, Anna M. Joyce, Solicitor General, and Karla H. Ferrall, Assistant Attorney General, fled the brief for respondent.

          Before Armstrong, Presiding Judge, and Hadlock, Chief Judge, and Egan, Judge.

         Case Summary: Defendant appeals a judgment of conviction for manslaughter in the second degree, ORS 163.125. He assigns error to the trial court's denial of his motion for judgment of acquittal, contending that the evidence was insufficient to prove that he acted recklessly. Held: Based on the facts adduced at trial and the reasonable inferences that can be drawn from those facts, there was sufficient evidence that defendant was aware of and consciously disregarded a substantial and unjustifiable risk that his conduct would cause the death of another human being. Therefore, the evidence was sufficient to prove that defendant acted recklessly, and the trial court did not err in denying defendant's motion for judgment of acquittal.

         Affirmed.

          EGAN, J.

         Defendant appeals a judgment of conviction for manslaughter in the second degree, ORS 163.125, for causing the death of another while driving. He assigns error to the trial court's denial of his motion for judgment of acquittal, contending that the evidence was insufficient to prove that he acted recklessly. The state responds that the evidence is sufficient "to support a reasonable inference that defendant was aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that continuing to drive that day would cause the death of another person and that he consciously disregarded that risk." We agree with the state. Accordingly, we affirm.

         We state the facts in the light most favorable to the state and review those facts to determine whether a rational trier of fact could have found defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Cunningham, 320 Or 47, 63, 880 P.2d 431 (1994), cert den, 514 U.S. 1005 (1995). On the morning of November 17, 2012, at around 9:00 a.m., Seehawer pulled out of her driveway and started to drive on Buckhorn Road. Seehawer noticed that defendant was driving a Jeep Grand Cherokee "very close to the back of [her] truck, " and she began to drive faster than usual because she felt "pushed." When she looked back, defendant had "backed off." Soon after, defendant's Jeep was "on [her] tail" a second time but again backed off until she could no longer see defendant in her rearview mirror. Defendant's Jeep was on her tail for a third time as she approached Highway 138.

         Seehawer then turned left from Buckhorn Road onto Highway 138 and pulled into the far right lane so that defendant could pass her. Defendant passed Seehawer and continued on Highway 138 in the left lane. At one point, Seehawer observed defendant "drift" into the turn lane and then correct his steering back into the left lane. Defendant entered a "sweeping curve, " and Seehawer lost sight of defendant's Jeep, but, when she rounded the curve, she saw defendant's Jeep rolling over.

         After driving on Highway 138 for about 1.25 miles, defendant's Jeep had crossed into oncoming traffic and collided with a red Neon driven by Fields. The two cars initially hit each other on their front left corners and along the drivers' sides. Fields received fatal injuries in the collision and died later that day.

         Roseburg Police Officer Rosas responded to the scene of the crash at about 9:30 a.m. Rosas observed that defendant's Jeep was on its right side and waited with defendant until the paramedics arrived. Defendant's hand was bleeding and he told the officer that his feet and an ankle were in pain. Defendant also told Rosas that he hoped that he had not killed anyone.

         Paramedics Dahl and Harr arrived and helped defendant out of the Jeep and into an ambulance. At that time, defendant was "alert" and "oriented, " and only complained about his leg hurting. Both Dahl and Harr noticed that defendant had "significant scarring" and recent "track marks" on his forearm, which are commonly associated with intravenous drug use. Defendant told Dahl that he was a drug user and that he had "shot up" that morning. Defendant told Harr that he had used methamphetamine "a few days" before the crash and Oxycodone the day before the crash. He also said that he had felt "really ...


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