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More DWI suspects face murder charges in N.C.

Posted November 16, 2010

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— Although most murder trials involve violent crimes, North Carolina prosecutors are increasingly filing second-degree murder charges for people suspected of drunken driving who cause fatal crashes.

Cory Lamar Henderson's murder trial began Tuesday. Prosecutors said Henderson, 34, of Louisburg, was intoxicated in on Aug. 29, 2009, when his car hit and killed Eddie Ogburn, 28, on Wake Forest Road in Raleigh.

"He's taken downtown, and he's asked to submit to a test of his breath. He's reeking of alcohol," Wake County Assistant District Attorney John Parker told jurors in his opening statement.

Henderson has two previous driving while impaired convictions, Parker said.

"If they continue to drive drunk and hurt and kill people, and if the elements are there, we're going to prosecute you for murder," Wake County Assistant District Attorney Jeff Cruden said. "We should be able to get in the car at night and drive to the movie theater with our kids and not worry about not being able to make it home."

Cruden is prosecuting Raymond Cook on a second-degree murder charge for a September 2009 wreck on Strickland Road in Raleigh that killed aspiring ballerina Elena Shapiro. He said the standard for a second-degree murder charge is malice, which can include anything from speeding to having a prior record of DWIs.

"Years ago, there wasn't much attention given to it," Cruden said. "Now, everyone knows (that), if you drive drunk and kill somebody, you're going to be prosecuted at a minimum for felony death by motor vehicle, and if the elements are there to support malice, we're going to prosecute you for second-degree murder."

Statewide, 394 people were killed last year in alcohol-related crashes, including 18 in Wake County, according to the North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center.

Drunken Driving, DWI, Driving Drunk, Drunk Driving More DWI suspects face murder charges

There were almost 73,000 DWI charges filed in North Carolina in 2009, according to the state Administrative Office of the Courts. The office doesn't break out how many second-degree murder charges in North Carolina involve DWI cases.

Henderson's attorney told jurors in his opening statement that he doesn't think the case meets the standard for murder.

"At the end of the trial, I am going to come back before you and specifically ask you to acquit him on the charge of second-degree murder," defense attorney Dewey Brinkley said.

If convicted of murder, Henderson, Cook and others charged in similar cases face lengthy prison sentences.

"Based on your prior record level, we're talking 20 years for a drunk-driving fatality," Cruden said.


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  • sonyacannady Nov 22, 2010

    If you don't know all the facts, you shouldn't make certain comments. I don't think no one leaves there house or any place driving thinking they are going to kill some one. Drinking or not. If several people jumped on you and you couldn't defend yourself, you would get away. A lot of factors play a part in this bad mistake. I am sure Mr. Henderson has taken responsiblity for his actions, but 2ND DEGREE MURDER! When will N.C. get a system that works and not based around some of these big shot DA's, Attorney's and Judges? Who are they to determine what the next few years of someones life should be.GET A SYSTEM THAT WORKS!

  • lvhv2003 Nov 18, 2010

    Maybe repeat offenders need to have a lifelong ankle monitor installed that is GPS tracking and serves as an alcohol monitor. It would be cheaper than prison as long as they abided by the rules. If they didn't, throw them in a work camp and throw away the key.

  • oleguy Nov 17, 2010

    If a repeat DWI driver ever hurts one of my family, it will most likely be me on trial,,,
    Keep a hole dug, you never know when you need it,,

  • tritonlm6 Nov 17, 2010

    Three strikes. This guy should be out.

  • John Sawtooth Nov 17, 2010

    @ Concerned - the first case I know of was involving my father's death - that case was sometime around July 1985 I think. It was the first 2nd Degree Murder charge for repeat DWI in NC as I remember it. Colon Willoughby prosecuted. There was a guilty plea for a lighter sentence, which our family was mostly satisfied with (aside from the strange sentencing laws of that time, now repealed).

  • Capt Mercury Nov 17, 2010

    You have to wonder at what point a repeat DWI offender should be judged an uncorrectable menace to society, at which point you have to find a way to keep them from driving any car ever again. Dare I say, capital punishment? At least some sort of permanent handicap so they can't possibly drive a car again.

  • ConcernedNCC Nov 17, 2010

    That's something they've done in other states for quite some time, make killing someone while drunk driving pre-meditated murder. NC has been behind the times on this a long time...too many back-room deals.

  • John Sawtooth Nov 17, 2010

    We need several things. Consistency in sentencing (not mandatory sentencing, just sensible, strict and consistent), a means to end the endless delay or judge-shopping tactics used by defense attorneys (consitent judges !), as well as some sort of half-way house sentencing for repeat offenders. Imprisonment is costly and probably a bad fit, but a strict mental-health style halfway house/incarceration might just work. That way they're supervised enough to prevent them driving and abusing, and a determined violator can be dealt with specifically and strongly to prevent more DWI fatalities before they get the chance to drive drunk.

    That is a kind of grass-roots mental health approach that might actually solve several similar problems.

  • rebekah1979 Nov 17, 2010

    1st DUI/DWI, I think treatment/rehab should be MANDATED. After the first one, bring on the 2nd degree murder charges! Even as an idiotic teenager I was never stupid enough to drive after drinking. We especially need to get repeat offenders off the street. If that means prison, so be it.

  • rgbreed Nov 17, 2010

    I know of one woman who was arrested 5 times for DWI, sometimes having one arrest before going to trial for a prior arrest. She hired one of those "slick" attorneys and had at least two dismissed, one because (as the judge said) it was "too old." Well, how did it get old--lay over after lay over. The woman will eventually kills someone, I have no doubt. She's nearly killed herself twice already. So it kind of boils down to who can afford the right attorney and who can't, not right or wrong.