Rhode Island Injury Lawyer Blog

There was a fascinating story in the New York Times which talks about how innocent people can be coerced and pressured into confessing to crimes that they did not commit. At criminal jury trials, confessions carry a great deal of weight because jurors believe that no reasonable person would confess to a crime that he or she did not commit. But in fact, it can and does, happen.

The story follows Eddie Lowery who spent ten years in prison for a rape that he did not commit. There was absolutely no physical evidence linking Lowery to the crime, but he was convicted on his confession alone. DNA evidence would eventually prove that another man committed the rape but not until Lowery had spent ten years of his life in prison for a crime he never committed.

We know of at least 40 people who confessed to a crime that they did not commit only to be proven innocent years later by DNA evidence. Experts suggest that those who are mentally ill, possess below average intelligence, or are easily pressured and swayed, are the most likely to confess to crimes not committed.

It is also possible that investigating detectives wore down the defendant by using questionable tactics such as endless interrogation (sometimes lasting days), depriving him or her of water and/or food, uncomfortable chairs and heat, etc. They push a suspect to the point that they would rather confess and end the torment than continue to profess their innocence.

If the police are desperate to obtain a confession it means, quite possibly, that they do not have enough evidence to convict you absent a confession. If you have been arrested or simply brought in for questioning do not speak to the police. Even if you do not “confess” to the crime your statements can be used against you such as contradicting an alibi. Tell the police that you want to speak to your attorney and end the interrogation immediately.

There is no greater injustice than for an innocent person to spend years in jail for a crime they did not commit. False confessions are real and they do happen.

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I have discussed in previous posts how the statute preventing tractor trailers from crossing the Pawtucket River Bridge on Interestate 95 is a money making juggernaut for the State of Rhode Island so they are unlikely to repair the bridge or remove the law preventing commercial trucks from passing any time soon.

Many commercial transportation companies from out of State are shocked to find themselves hit with a $3000 bill just for crossing a bridge. I have appeared on behalf of many companies and saved my clients thousands of dollars at the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal. I may be able to have your citation dismissed as I have done for some previous clients. Even if I am unable to have the ticket thrown out of Court, I will be able to reduce the fine considerably saving you and your company a great deal of money.

If you or your company has been handed a hefty $3000 ticket in Rhode Island, contact my office right away so that I can begin to assist you.

The trial of Andrew Gallo is beginning this week in California. Gallo, 23, is the man who caused the accident which killed Angels pitcher, Nick Adenhart, along with two other people. Along with the obvious DUI charges, the California prosecutor has charged Gallo with three counts of second degree murder. It is uncommon for a drunk driver to be charged with murder rather than vehicular manslaughter, manslaughter, or other lesser offenses. The reason it is uncommon is because murder is an “intent” crime meaning that the death of the other person was not accidental but was instead an intended result. Drunk drivers, rarely if ever, intend to kill even though they are aware that it is a danger if they drive drunk.

But prosecutors are playing it tough with Gallo. Their stance may be due to the publicity of the case because Gallo killed a major league baseball player, but prosecutors also point to the fact that at the time of the accident Gallo’s blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit. Also, Gallo is not a first time offender. Gallo was arrested for DUI in 2006 and signed papers indicating that he was aware that he could kill someone if he drives drunk.

Prosecutors in Orange County have been actively pursuing murder charges in cases like this rather than manslaughter. As the crackdown on drunk driving continues across the Country it is important to watch decisions like this. A jury is never sympathetic to a drunk driver and most of the public, even though not based on legal grounds, believe that a drunk driver who kills should in fact be charged with murder.

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Three years ago, a 22 year old Cape Cod woman, Laura Hope Smith, died following an abortion procedure. The estate of Ms. Smith is represented by a Boston medical malpractice attorney and there will surely be a civil lawsuit for her wrongful death. What makes this case interesting is that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is charging the obstetrician, Dr. Rapin Osathanondh, with manslaughter.

Medical malpractice, generally, is a civil action between the injured party and the doctor who failed to treat the patient with the necessary care. If the plaintiff can prove that the doctor was negligent, he or she may collect personal injury damages. In this case, the care offered to Ms. Smith was so far below the necessary standard of care that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts believe it was criminal behavior and have charged the doctor with felony manslaughter. The prosecutors allege that Dr. Osathanondh’s negligence was “willful, wanton, and reckless.”

The board (of medicine) said Osathanondh did not have any means of monitoring Smith’s heart, and did not have oxygen or a functioning blood pressure cuff in the room during Smith’s abortion. The board also alleged that he “failed to adhere to basic cardiac life support protocol” and did not call 911 in a timely manner.

Osathanondh was also accused of deceiving staff members by claiming he gave Smith oxygen during the procedure and by saying that Smith was monitored by a pulse oximeter during her procedure. Neither step was taken, the board said.

Dr. Osathanondh, or his insurance company, will most likely pay the Estate of Ms. Smith for her unfortunate loss. It is quite uncommon for doctors to be charged with criminal cases in addition to the civil lawsuit by the family, so this will be very interesting to follow. To add another twist to this case, the defense must be careful to select jurors who will listen to the facts of the case and not find Dr. Osathanondh guilty of manslaughter because he performs abortions.

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It is quite common for my clients to complain that there are a lot of mistakes in the police report from a car accident and that the report is in error. Minor mistakes in accident reports are quite common and usually do not warrant concern. If the report has minor typographical errors or has your wrong birth date or license plate, etc., it is not a problem worth concerning yourself. Personal injury attorneys and insurance companies are both accustomed to dealing with inaccurate police reports.

scpst1_t300.jpgIf, however, you feel that the accident description does not accurately reflect the facts of the crash, or if the report fails to acknowledge passengers in your vehicle, it may be worth contacting the responding officer to fix the mistakes. Police officers will rarely make assumptions about how an accident occurred unless they were an eyewitness to the crash. Rather, they will talk to both drivers and and summarize their statements in the report. It is for this reason that police often do not give out citations after an accident. Unless the officer actually witnessed a driver speeding, he or she is unlikely to cite the driver for speeding even if the damage suggests excessive speed.

In general, police reports are only a starting point for investigating an auto accident and are most useful to identify all the involved parties and insurance companies. The statements are, essentially, inadmissible at trial, and are less important than detailed statements or depositions.

Therefore, to make a long story short, do not let an inaccurate police report cause you too much unrest. Only if there is a fatal or damaging flaw in the report should you take the effort to contact the reporting officer. He or she will not change the initial report anyway and will only add your subsequent statement as an attachment to the original report.

Of course, all cases are unique and you should raise any question or concern with your car accident lawyer right away.

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A Federal Court in California has ruled in favor of Eminem, by stating that digital downloads from Itunes.com do not qualify as purchases, but are rather “licensed” by the “buyer”. The import of this decision is that there is a dramatic difference between record sale royalties and license agreement royalties.

A recording contract generally pays royalties between 7% and 20% to an artist, depending on their popularity and ability to generate sales, for each album and/or single sold. The same recording contract might allow for 50% of royalties for the licensing of a song, such as to a TV show, commercial, or movie.

As a result of this ruling, artists such as Eminem, will now receive the much higher licensing royalty percentage than the lower record sales royalty. It could mean hundreds of thousands of dollars for artists as popular as Eminem. Even for much smaller artists this is a major decision since Itunes is becoming the leader in music sales while CDs begin to disappear.

Rest assured, however, that record label attorneys are running to their keyboard to make appropriate amendments and soon recording contracts will have a special “licensing” provision for Itunes which brings the royalty down to the intended amount of royalty for record sales. Nevertheless, this decision is a boon to recording artists currently working on a contract who have no such provision.

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Another hurricane is upon us and as a lifelong Rhode Islander, I like you, am skeptical that this storm will amount to much, and here’s to hoping that it doesn’t. That said, it is going to be a very difficult weekend for driving and rain is expected to reach several inches in some parts of the state. Please be careful when driving and only drive if absolutely necessary.

If you are in an accident related to the storm, be sure to contact our office right away. Weather and storm related auto accidents have several unique problems that require investigation to determine who is at fault for the car accident and who is responsible for paying. During storms: cars can become disabled in the middle of roads, cars hydroplane and drift on the water, and most of all, visibility is extremely poor. These factors lead to a heavy increase in the frequency of auto accidents.

While Earl is not a name that often strikes fear, we must prepare for the worst. Be safe everyone!

It has been a tough year for the auto industry. This year alone Toyota, Ford, and GM have recalled over 15 million vehicles for various safety related issues! Technological breakthroughs might helps sell new cars, but the single most important characteristic of a vehicle is it’s safety record.

It is important to understand that if you or a family member have been seriously injured or killed in an auto accident that resulted in a rollover or post-collision fire, that you may be able to pursue a product liability claim in addition to the at-fault driver’s auto insurance. if the vehicle’s design either caused the accident (i.e. the sudden acceleration accidents caused by Toyota’s) or made the injuries worse (i.e. bursting into flames after impact) then you may be able to seek damages against the manufacturer.

Rollover Accidents

Every car designer will accept that at a bare minimum a car on pavement should never flip over. The introduction of SUVs in the past few decades, however, showed that top heavy vehicles may, in fact, rollover in certain collisions. If a car rolls over, an investigation may be warranted to determine if a flawed design made the vehicle unstable. In addition, since it is well known that a vehicle might rollover in certain accidents, car manufacturers need to prepare for the possibility. That means that the roof should be able to withstand a certain amount of pressure without collapsing and crushing the occupants inside. Doors, windows, and safety glass should be designed in such a way as to limit or reduce vehicle ejection (being thrown from the car).

Safety Device Failure

We rely on seatbelts and air bags to save us from serious harm in an accident and even if a car is nine years old we expect that these safety devices will work. If a seat belt fails or an airbag fails to deploy it may be caused by faulty design or installation. Without these safety devices in place, a relatively minor accident can become extremely serious.

Post Collision Fires

Vehicles igniting into flames after an accident is not a very common occurrence following the disastrous Pinto and the massive lawsuits that Ford faced. If you recall, the Ford Pinto had a gas tank dangerously close to the rear bumper which caused Pintos to burst into flames after a simple rear-end accident. Today, designers are very aware of the need to protect and insulate the gas tank from impact. However, modern cars have complex gas combustion engines and fuel lines criss-cross up and down the length of the car. Inappropriate positioning of any of these lines or the breach of a line in a simple accident might cause a preventable post-accident fire.

It is important that you hire an attorney who is familiar with product liability cases and who can see potential cases when a car accident has caused very serious injury. If you feel the vehicle you were in failed to keep its occupants safe, do not hire an attorney who stops short at the auto insurance policy.

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A surprisingly large number of personal injury and auto accident attorneys will only handle the personal injury portion of a claim and not handle the property damage to your car. I do not understand this procedure and I assure you that I will personally handle your entire auto accident claim including property damage.

Property damage refers to the entire process of repairing your vehicle, acquiring rental cars, towing, and resolving total losses, if applicable. It is an important part of an auto accident and needs prompt attention to make sure you are not without a car for long and that your family car is quickly and efficiently repaired.

I feel that car accident attorneys, such as myself, have a duty to represent you for the entire claim. Here are several reasons why:

  • It is inappropriate for you to speak with the opposing insurance company even if it is only about the property damage.
  • It takes quite a few phone calls to organize all of the parties involved… insurance companies, auto bodies, rental car companies, property adjusters, etc. This is not work that you should have to do while recovering from a serious personal injury!
  • If your property damage is not dealt with in a satisfactory way, it must be resolved through litigation and only an attorney can prepare for that possibility.

It is always important to hire a personal injury attorney when hurt in an auto accident. In return for his or her services you are going to give up 1/3 of your total settlement. That is a good deal of money and you should be sure that your attorney is going to handle your ENTIRE case!

Do not hire an attorney or law firm that asks you to handle all the headaches and sacrifice all the time necessary to resolve a property damage claim. If you are hurt following an auto accident, your only concern should be recovering, not calling an auto body to find out when your car will finally be fixed!

Remember – I used to work for an auto insurance company and I know how the entire process works. If you have been injured in a Rhode Island or Massachusetts accident, let my office make the process as smooth and comfortable as possible!

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A convicted person in Rhode Island may find themselves on probation in one of two ways: 1) as part of a suspended sentence; or, 2) under straight probation. In either case, the person convicted is not required to serve prison time. Probation may be either supervised or non-supervised. Supervised probation requires frequent reporting to a probation officer who will keep tabs on your life and work status and/or whether you are complying with court ordered rehab, if applicable.

Probation as Part of a Suspended Sentence

If given a suspended sentence, the judge will impose a length of time to be served, but order that the imprisonment is waived while the defendant is on probation. The suspended sentence might also require some time to be served in jail followed by a period of probation. If the probation is completed successfully, meaning that you have not violated probation (more below) then the sentence is completed. If probation is violated the defendant can be forced to serve the remainder of the suspended sentence.

Straight Probation

Straight probation is more common for lesser crimes and misdemeanors than it is for felonies. Straight probation works essentially the same as it does under a suspended sentence, but in this case there is no underlying amount of time to be served. If a person violates a straight probation agreement, he or she will not be jailed to serve the remainder of a suspended sentence. Instead, a violator of straight probation, will be jailed for an amount of time determined at a violation hearing. A violator may be forced to serve the maximum sentence for the crime committed.

Violation of Probation

When someone is placed on probation (regardless of form) they are told to “keep the peace” and be of good behavior. Unfortunately, and this is an area of much contention, a person does not need to commit another crime to be found as a violator of probation. Merely failing to keep the peace is enough to be considered a violator of probation and placed back in jail. The violation becomes a second separate charge in addition to any charges that may arise from the incident in which the Attorney General believes the defendant violated the terms of probation.

Your criminal defense attorney will represent you at a probation violation hearing which is held in front of a Judge. Both sides will have an opportunity to address whether you have kept your terms of probation. Again, “keep the peace” and “good behavior” are vague and it does not take much evidence for a Judge to determine that a persons actions were not “good behavior.”

Because the Judge believes that you have already violated your probation, he or she is VERY unlikely to allow bail. Therefore, these are very serious charges because it requires jail time pending the resolution of the underlying charges.

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