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Wake judge sets aside part of guilty verdict in fatal hit-and-run

Posted August 21, 2012

— A Superior Court judge on Tuesday set aside part of a jury's verdict in the case of a Raleigh man charged in the June 2011 death of a Randolph County woman, because there wasn't enough evidence to support a conviction.

Macrus Xavier Bridges, 21, was found guilty Monday of felony hit and run and misdemeanor death by motor vehicle in the death of Morgan McKenzie, 17. But Superior Court Judge Carl Fox didn't accept the hit-and-run decision, he said, because Wake County prosecutors offered no evidence to show that Bridges knew there was a wreck.

Assistant District Attorney Jason Waller, who notified Fox that he plans to appeal the ruling, said McKenzie's family was upset by Fox's decision.

The teen was riding in a Chevrolet Malibu with her sister and her mother in a left lane on Interstate 40 in the early hours of June 25, 2011, when, prosecutors say, Bridges merged into the lane.

McKenzie's sister, Emily McKenzie, swerved right to avoid hitting Bridges, lost control of her and car and hit a tree.

Morgan McKenzie, who was in the back seat, died at the scene, and the driver and other passenger were injured.

Superior Court Judge Carl Fox Judge rejects guilty verdict in fatal hit-and-run

Bridges, authorities said, never stopped.

Defense attorney Butch Williams said Bridges didn't know about the wreck.

Bridges, however, was sentenced Tuesday to a 45-day suspended sentence and 18 months of supervised probation on the misdemeanor death by motor vehicle charge. Fox also ordered him to pay a $1,000 fine and court costs, to surrender his license for a year and to perform 100 hours of community service by speaking to young drivers about his experience.

"The most dangerous thing we do every day is take a key and put it in the ignition and drive," Fox told Bridges. "It's a serious responsibility."

Bridges apologized in court.

"I am so sorry about what happened. I cannot express it with words," he said. "If I could change anything about it would. I hope we can all get over it, and we can honor her memory."


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  • acc_blood Aug 23, 2012

    Thanks tnt - I know it must have been difficult for you guys to deliberate and work it out. Had I been on the jury, I'm fairly certain I would have been the last hold out - or even kept on with the position that the phrase "should have known" can be interpreted in different ways - and I don't see how anybody could be guilty of a crime of COMMISSION (intentionally leaving the scene of an accident) when they are oblivious to it.

    His reckless driving has already been established, but that's not cogent to the actual charge of "leaving the scene."

    To me, the whole case is eerily simliar to the drunk driving trial last year where the prosecution went for murder instead of pleading out to manslaughter. That entire case hinged on a phrase, too: "malice aforethought."

    Lastly, people already treat the kid like a murderer. A Hit & Run conviction would guarantee that he would be treated like a felon the rest of his life.

  • tnt2 Aug 22, 2012

    acc_blood, we on the jury were given a copies of the state laws that the defendant was charged with breaking. Each page had bullet points that we had to deliberate over and agree on, one by one. The NC Felony Hit and Run law reads (according to the sheet that was given to us) that "the defendant knew or SHOULD HAVE KNOWN that he or she had caused an accident." I keep upper-casing those words, because that's what our verdict hinged on. We pored over accident photos and maps of the road for hours on end. He SHOULD HAVE KNOWN that he caused an accident. He did NOT merge. He veered/swerved/shot across double lines onto another road without signaling or verifying that it was safe (if not legal) to do so.
    He SHOULD HAVE KNOWN. Being happily oblivious is NOT an excuse.
    And, no one EVER claimed this young man would have been treated as a murderer. He would not have gone to jail. He would have had his license taken away for another 5 years or so - which would have benefited ALL of us greatly.

  • smokiejoe Aug 22, 2012

    acc_blood you're right maybe we should take the European approach to driving laws.I'm not sure about now but when I was there in the 70's if you caused an accident that resulted in the death of someone else it was pretty much an automatic death sentance.

  • acc_blood Aug 22, 2012

    TNT - since you were on the jury, I have a question. You've told us that you deliberated a different level of "knowing" than judge Fox claimed the law said.

    My question is where did the discrepancy come in?

    Was it in the instructions? Or are Wake County statutes different than State statutes, and you ended up deliberating over the less stringent definition of felony hit and run?

    Thanks - I know it's rough to deal with a tragedy like this constantly for days on end.

  • acc_blood Aug 22, 2012

    paladin: 2 people died YESTERDAY on the beltline because of carelessness, negligence, or people being in a hurry. And you know what, people stink at driving. I have not been a proponent of cell phone bans (though we should have the NY law for sure - hands free only), but every day, distracted moms, cell phone users, cigarette smokers, and just plain dummies make driving to and from work a daredevil stunt.

    And those that are negligent owe a debt, both criminally and civilly. But just because you CAUSE an accident that kills somebody doesn't mean you should be treated the same as a felon murderer.

    If we want to start doing that, then we have to start taking a different approach to driving - the European approach - where getting a driver's license is truly a privilege, not a right.

    Until then, we have to deal with the mess that is our traffic penal system.

  • tnt2 Aug 22, 2012

    Actually you have proven that the driver of the vehicle that crashed caused her vehicle to crash. She obviously did not have enough experience to understand you do not make a STRONG steering action at a high rate of speed. Had she made a correct adjustment she could have moved out of the way and not gone SIDEWAYS. - whatelseisnew
    I have proven no such thing, whatelseisnew. The defendant veered without a signal onto I-40 from an entirely DIFFERENT ROAD - 440, across a median and double white lines. Multiple witnesses stated that before she swerved, the cars were door to door, so close that they couldn't determine whether contact HAD taken place. She reacted in a fraction of a second, and in the NEXT second, she was out of control. Of course it wasn't the correct reaction to make, but she never would have reacted in ANY fashion had he not made the illegal and irresponsible move that he did.

  • tnt2 Aug 22, 2012

    loveapex, in North Carolina, there doesn't have to be physical contact between vehicles for there to be "Hit and Run". The defendant doesn't have to jog away briskly from the scene of the accident, either. These are legal terms, not common vernacular terms. As a juror in this case, I learned quickly that the laws don't necessarily mean what you THINK they mean.
    Also according to NC law, the defendant doesn't have to know that he caused an accident. The charge reads that the defendant "knew or SHOULD HAVE KNOWN" that he caused an accident. And this guy absolutely SHOULD have known.

  • smokiejoe Aug 22, 2012

    That's right Paladin2 if a judge is going to nullify a jury's decision what good does it do to have a jury? Why would anyone want to waste thier time being on a jury,also what legal right does a judge have to nullify a jury decision.This is truely a mockery of the justice system.It only proves that there is justice and just us.

  • loveapex Aug 22, 2012

    Being a judge is also a serious responsibility and a judge nullifying a jury decision mocks the justice system.

    I agree. I find the judges actions to be very odd.

  • Paladin2 Aug 22, 2012

    Being a judge is also a serious responsibility and a judge nullifying a jury decision mocks the justice system.