Defense seeks to block evidence in fatal I-85 crash trial
Posted August 4, 2016
Hillsborough, N.C. — Defense attorneys for a former University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student accused of killing three people a year ago in a wrong-way collision on Interstate 85 have asked that blood tests and other evidence be excluded when the case goes to trial this fall.
Authorities said Chandler Michael Kania was driving north in the southbound lanes near the split of I-85 and Interstate 40 in Orange County on July 19, 2015, when his Jeep Wrangler collided with a Suzuki driven by Felecia Harris.
Harris, 49, of Charlotte, her friend Darlene McGee, 46, of Charlotte, and Harris' granddaughter Jahnice Beard, 6, of Brooklyn, N.Y., were killed in the fiery wreck. Harris' daughter, Jahnia King, 9, was seriously injured.
Toxicology tests show that Kania had a blood-alcohol content of 0.17, which is more than twice the level at which a driver is considered impaired under North Carolina law. Because Kania was 20 at the time, however, any alcohol in his system would have been illegal because he was underage.
Attorneys Samuel Coleman and James Rainsford filed a motion this week to suppress the blood-alcohol evidence, saying the blood was drawn improperly and any analysis of it is therefore unreliable. A State Highway Patrol trooper asked an EMT to get a blood sample from Kania at the accident scene in violation of a 2012 order from former Highway Patrol commander Col. Michael Gilchrist, according to the motion. Although state law allows EMTs to draw blood, they aren't specifically trained to do so, and the North Carolina Medical Board and the state Office of Emergency Medical Services have determined that EMTs aren't certified for such duties, the motion states.
The attorneys also filed motions to exclude any evidence obtained from Kania's cellphone, alleging that the search warrant used to seize the phone was flawed, to exclude photos of the accident scene that might be inflammatory and to exclude estimates of Kania's speed that night from other drivers on the highway, alleging they are merely opinions and are likely inaccurate.
Kania is under house arrest in Asheboro awaiting trial on three counts each of second-degree murder and felony death by motor vehicle and one count each of felony serious injury by motor vehicle, driving while impaired, driving left of center, obtaining alcohol by a minor and underage consumption of alcohol as a minor. A grand jury also indicted him on an aggravating factor linked to a fight he had with friends who tried to stop him from driving after drinking that night.
Orange County Assistant District Attorney Jeff Nieman declined to comment on the motions, saying that he continues to prepare for trial, which is scheduled to start Oct. 3.
"One thing I’ve been very impressed with is the strength and poise that they have demonstrated," Nieman said of the victims' families.