Posted: Monday, September 9th 2013 at 10:39am
SCOGA upholds conviction in Forsyth Co. hit-and-run
ATLANTA - The State Supreme Court has upheld a vehicular homicide conviction against a man who forced a woman off Georgia 400 two years ago, causing an accident that lead to her death.
Walter E. Bell had asked his conviction in the death of Jenny McMillan-Gutierrez be overturned, saying that Georgia's hit-and-run law, which required him to stop at the scene of an accident, was unconstitutional.
According to the evidence, Bell, who was 44 at the time, was driving northbound on Georgia 400 at the same time and in the same direction as the victim. Witnesses said Bell was driving at a high rate of speed and weaving in and out of traffic. Two witnesses testified that Bell changed lanes in front of Gutierrez, causing her to lose control of her car, veer off the road and crash into some trees. Gutierrez died after the accident at North Forsyth Hospital.
A witness followed Bell as he left the accident scene and got his license plate number, which he turned over to authorities.
In Monday's unanimous decision, the Supreme Court rejected Bell's arguments and upheld his conviction, saying that Bell's contention of self-incrimination was without merit. The court stated Georgiaís hit-and-run statute "does not confront an individual with substantial hazards of self-incrimination."
Plus, the court stated in the opinion that the disclosure of a personís name and address is a "neutral act" with the statutory purpose of regulating the use of motor vehicles.
"Accordingly, Georgiaís hit-and-run statute does not violate oneís right against self-incrimination under the United States Constitution," and "we find no violation of Bellís right against self-incrimination under the Georgia Constitution."
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