Judge again OKs evidence for fatal I-85 crash trial
Posted September 29, 2016
Hillsborough, N.C. — A judge ruled Thursday that blood-alcohol and cellphone evidence can be introduced in the trial of 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.
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.
Kania's trial on charges of second-degree murder, felony death by motor vehicle, felony serious injury by motor vehicle, driving while impaired, driving left of center, obtaining alcohol by a minor and underage consumption of alcohol is set to begin next week.
Defense attorneys have tried twice to exclude evidence of Kania's blood-alcohol content after the crash and information authorities gleaned from his iPhone.
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.
Kania's attorneys alleged that he was too injured to consent to a blood draw in an ambulance after the crash, so his blood was taken illegally and any analysis of it should be excluded from the trial.
Likewise, they said Kania's phone was illegally seized and the State Highway Patrol troopers didn't provide enough justification for a search warrant to examine it.
Investigators say hundreds of images were taken from the phone. According to prosecutors, Kania's friends fought with him prior to the crash and, in an attempt to keep him from driving, they took his phone.
Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour ruled against both defense motions.