More DWI suspects face murder charges in N.C.
Posted November 16, 2010 10:00 p.m. EST
Updated November 16, 2010 11:04 p.m. EST
Raleigh, N.C. — 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.
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.