October 18, 2010

2010 North Carolina Judicial Races - How To Vote

Asheville courthouse.jpgJudicial elections are extremely important. The decisions that judges make directly impact the lives of many people. This is particularly true if you happen to be one of the almost 3 million people who happen to have a case in the North Carolina court system each year. This means that many voters will look a judge in the eye at some point, whether in the context of divorce, child custody, child support, civil suit (personal injury, property dispute) or even the penalty side of misdemeanors (traffic) or criminal charges. In many cases, the judge decides who wins and who loses. In all cases, the judge can have an impact on how the case is decided. Therefore, who gets elected as judge may directly affect your life.

Since the North Carolina Legislature decided that judicial races are to be non-partisan, it is hard to know who to vote for, unless you personally know the person who's running for judge. If you do not know the candidate, and you do not know what party (Republican, Democrat or other) they belong to, how can you intelligently cast your vote? The best way is to ask a lawyer who has experience in the courtroom trying cases before the judge.

Here is how I plan to vote in the judicial elections based upon my personal knowledge of the candidates, their legal experience, and their known or perceived judicial temperament. Please print this list and take it with you when you vote:

NC Supreme Court
Judge Robert C. "Bob" Hunter (Brady seat)

NC Court of Appeals
Judge Rick Elmore (incumbent)
Judge Martha Geer (incumbent)
Judge Jane Gray (Calabria seat)
Judge Sanford Steelman (incumbent; unopposed)

NC Court of Appeals (Wynn seat - 13 candidate "instant runoff" race)
#1 choice - Judge Cressie Thigpen
#2 choice - Stan Hammer
#3 choice - Harry Payne

Buncombe County:

Superior Court (seat No. 1)
Alan Thornburg: thornburgforjudge.com

Superior Court (seat No. 2, instant runoff)
Heather Whitaker Goldstein: heatherforsuperiorcourtjudge.com

District Court (Barrett seat)
Sharon Barrett: N/A

District Court (Brown seat)
Shirley Brown: judgeshirleybrown.com

District Court (Cash seat)
Julie Kepple: julieforjudgecampaign.com

District Court (Knight seat)
Rebecca Knight: N/A

District Court (Young seat)
Patricia Kaufmann Young: re-electjudgeyoung.com

October 14, 2010

Safety Violations Caused Young Mother's Death in Pitt County Flatbed Trailer Crash

trailer safety violation.jpgEarly Tuesday afternoon, John David Ross, 29, of 2909 Royce Lane, near Winterville, drove his roofing crew toward a job site on northbound NC Highway 43. Behind Ross' Chevrolet pick-up truck was a home-made flatbed trailer loaded with shingles and other roofing materials. The investigating State Trooper said that the trailer lacked proper safety devices required by state law, such as a properly sized hitch pin and safety chains connecting the trailer to the truck.

As Ross' truck and trailer crested a short hill, the trailer suddenly detached from the truck and veered into the oncoming lane. Tragically, Lisa Langemann, 27, of 2005 Wallace Lane and her two young daughters were headed southbound in their SUV on NC Highway 43 at the same time. Langemann must have seen the trailer coming because witnesses say the SUV swerved to the right to try and avoid the collision, but the out of control trailer struck the SUV head-on. After the sudden impact, the SUV hit a ditch and flipped over.

Langemann died at the scene. Her 8 year old daughter is listed in serious condition at Pitt Memorial Hospital, and her one month old daughter was treated and released. Her family is devastated by her loss. Langemann was a second grade teacher at Bethel Elementary School in Pitt County. She was in her third year of teaching at the school. The teachers, administrators and students were shocked when they learned of the wreck.

Langemann's family could pursue a wrongful death claim against Ross and his roofing company. Given the type of safety violations that caused this crash, pursuing such a case could help provide for the care and upbringing of her two young children. While financial compensation could never bring back this wonderful teacher and mother, it might make a difference in her childrens' lives. While Ross certainly feels terrible about what happened, he is still legally responsible for the outcome.

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October 6, 2010

Mandy Kirkconnell - A Tragic Loss For The Asheville Community

manie kirkconnell.jpgLast Saturday morning, shortly before 3a.m., an intoxicated Jennifer N. Kessler, of Arden, drove her vehicle the wrong way on Interstate 240 in Asheville. As Kessler neared the Brevard Road exit, her vehicle collided head-on into a vehicle operated by Mandie Kirkconnell, 29, of Asheville. Kessler suffered serious injuries, but Ms. Kirkconnell died at the scene. This is the second wrong way collision in Asheville this year.

As a result, authorities have charged Kessler with felony death by vehicle, driving while impaired and reckless driving to endanger. She faces prison time for what she did.

Kirkconnell was a remarkable woman who positively touched every person with whom she came in contact. A devout Christian and a talented musician with an incredible voice, Ms. Kirkconnell was very active in her church at King of Glory Christian Church in Swannanoa as well as at many other churches in the Asheville area, including Relate Church and the Melchizadek House of Prayer.

Kirkconnell's friends say that in light of her strong faith and belief in the healing power of the love of Christ, she would want everyone to forgive Kessler for her horrible mistake in judgment. A tall order for even those with a strong faith. Those who knew her were clearly blessed if but for the short time she was here.

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September 30, 2010

Westville Pub Attack Creates Civil Liability

Tuesday night, a Candler woman, Jessica Renee Hall, 32, of Reeves Cove Road, crashed her SUV into the barriers separating the outdoor patio from the parking lot at the Westville Pub in West Asheville. Hall intentionally rammed her vehicle into the huge metal radiators that create a wall beside the patio where patrons often enjoy their food and beverages.

Witnesses say that Hall backed her SUV up approximately 20 feet from the patio, then jammed the vehicle in drive and then accelerated toward Amy Nicole Roberts and several others on the patio. The collision pinned Roberts under the radiators and the front of the SUV, causing serious injuries to her left leg. Hall then backed the SUV up, screamed out the vehicle's window, "that's what you get for f+++++g with me, b+++h!" and fled the scene. A witness ran after the SUV and got the license tag number and called 911. Police later contacted Hall at her home, and she was subsequently arrested and charged with felony assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury. She is out of jail on a $9,000 bond. The motive for the assault appears to be that Ms. Roberts was friends with Hall's ex-husband.

Ms. Roberts is still in the hospital receiving treatment for her mangled left leg. Doctors are hopeful that she will recover to the point that she can use the leg again, but there is still a possibility that she might have to have the leg amputated. Doctors expect that she will need multiple surgeries to address the severity of her injuries.

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September 26, 2010

Former Crew Chief Kohuth Cops Plea Deal

Nascar crew chief.jpgFormer Nascar Ultra Motorsports pit crew chief, Timothy Kohuth, 49, pleaded guilty to 2nd Degree Murder last week in Iredell County Superior Court. As a result, he will spend at least the next 9 years in jail. The maximum he could serve is 12 years. The plea deal arises out of the fatal crash Kohuth caused in 2008.

On July 31, 2008, Kohuth drank to the point he was severely intoxicated and then drove a rollback wrecker on Brawley School Road, crossed the center line, and then collided with a vehicle driven by Wesley Worden. The head-on impact killed Mr. Worden instantly and severely injured his wife, Gail.

At the plea deal hearing in court, District Attorney Sarah Kirkman said, "Witnesses said he got out of the truck and a 24-ounce beer fell out of his lap." After the crash, EMS took Kohuth to the hospital, but he refused to take either a breath or blood test to determine the amount of alcohol in his blood. State Troopers sought and obtained a search warrant and forced Kohuth to submit to a blood test. Approximately six hours after the fatal crash and after receiving a substantial amount of IV fluids, the test showed Kohuth's blood alcohol level to be .08, the legal limit in North Carolina.

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September 21, 2010

Supreme Court May Rock & Roll On Illegal Music Download Case

Kazaa.jpgOver the last several years, the 4 big record labels (Sony BMG, Universal Music, Warner Music and EMI) have aggressively pursued file sharing companies like KaZaA and Grokster as well as those who downloaded the music for their personal use.

The US Supreme Court recently took the first step toward hearing one of the more than 40,000 music download cases that have been filed by the music industry companies against individuals who downloaded music from the internet.

In each of these law suits, the music companies allege that the person downloading the music violated US copyright laws, which imposes shockingly strong penalties, up to $150,000 per violation. In these music download cases, many young people downloaded hundreds of songs, and the music companies contend that each downloaded song constitutes a violation.

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August 30, 2010

Juror Faces Criminal Contempt For Facebook Post

facebook juror.jpgA young female juror near Detroit will face a contempt of court hearing this coming Thursday. Her crime? She defied a judge's Order that she not discuss the case on which she was sitting - a criminal trial against a 40-year-old Clinton Township resident charged with a misdemeanor and a felony for resisting arrest. Hadley Jons, 20 of Macomb County, Michigan, received the same warning as all of the other jurors chosen to hear the criminal trial. But, apparently, she was the only juror to post her thoughts about which way she would vote on Facebook.

On Facebook, Jons wrote that she was "actually excited for jury duty tomorrow. It's gonna be fun to tell the defendant they're GUILTY. :P."

The defense lawyer's son, Jaxon Goodman, found the post on-line on August 11th. The defendant's lawyer, Saleema Sheikh, informed the judge before court the next morning. The judge then questioned Jon's if she had posted anything about the case on Facebook. She originally denied it, but then she reportedly put her face down and failed to answer when the judge read the post out-loud in open court.

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August 27, 2010

North Carolina Tractor-Trailer Driver Faces Lengthy Sentence For U-Turn

NC Truck Driver U-turn.jpgA North Carolina tractor-trailer driver is in jail in Jefferson County Wisconsin for making an illegal u-turn that caused a motorcyclist to crash into the side of the big rig and die.

Jeremy M. Pearce, 39 of Henderson, N.C., was charged with homicide by negligent operation of a motor vehicle following the crash he caused on Highway 16 near Hustisford Road in the town of Ixonia on August 16, 2010 at 1:10p.m. Pearce originally denied to investigators that he was trying to make a u-turn and claimed he was only trying to make a left hand turn on Hustisford Road, but investigators felt a u-turn was in progress given the location of the tractor trailer after the crash - it was parked across Highway 16.

When investigators interviewed Pearce a second time, he admitted that he was making a u-turn at the time of the deadly collision. He also acknowledged that it was against the rules of his truck company to make such a maneuver.

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August 23, 2010

Guilford Teen Charged With Texting While Driving & Hit and Run

Hit & Run.jpgAs safety advocates and parents continue to preach the dangers of texting while driving, teenagers continue to test the texting laws to the detriment and harm of everyone else. Last week, Justin Wallace, a 19 year old Connecticutt man, showed up in Superior Court to be formally charged with a host of minor crimes arising out of his texting while driving hit & run fiasco with a pedestrian.

In the early evening of July 24, Lori Walsh was walking single file with her dog and two children down Tanner Marsh Road. At the same time, Wallace was driving his father's 1997 tan Toyota Camry in the same direction as the mother and children were walking. Wallace was sending and receiving text messages on his cell phone as he drove down the road. He knew it was against the law but didn't think he would get caught.


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August 16, 2010

Fatal Crash On NC Highway 43 Near New Bern Blamed On Hydroplaning

dump truck wreck.jpgLast Friday afternoon just after 4 pm, a 2004 Nissan Maxima driven by Temikia Gooding, 23, of Kinston, hydroplaned on a rain slick highway near New Bern, crossed the center-line, rotated counter-clockwise, and was struck by a large dump truck driven by Charles White, 49, of New Bern.

The front of the dump truck impacted the Maxima on the passenger's side of the vehicle. The driver of the Maxima and her passenger, Alsheen Wooten, 27, of Vanceboro, were killed in the crash. The truck driver reported that the Maxima suddenly crossed into his lane of travel, and that he did not have time to avoid the collision.

The Maxima was traveling north on NC Highway 43, and the dump truck was traveling south.The investigating North Carolina State Trooper concluded that the driver of the Maxima was driving too fast for the rainy conditions. The investigating Trooper indicated that no charges would be filed against the driver of the dump truck. Knowing what to do if your vehicle hydroplanes is critical for safe driving on wet roads.

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July 31, 2010

Laura Fortenberry's Death Should Lead Lawmakers To Change North Carolina Law

Laura Fortenberry.jpgThe recent death of a Gaston County teenager, Laura Fortenberry, age 17, should lead North Carolina lawmakers to change the current law regarding how long a convicted drunk driver must wear an ankle alcohol monitoring bracelet.

Last Sunday night, on the Dallas-Cherryville Highway around 9 p.m., a habitual drunk driver, Howard Pasour, 28, of Bessemer City, tried passing several vehicles on the two lane road. While making the passing maneuver, the drunk driver crashed head-on into the vehicle in which Ms. Fortenberry was riding as a passenger. Ms. Fortenberry was killed in the crash.

The drunk driver has three previous convictions for drunk driving. His last conviction for DWI was last year in 2009. When he got his driver's license back this time in November, 2009, a judge ordered that he wear a continuous alcohol monitoring bracelet so that authorities could keep track of his whereabouts and make sure that he was not driving drunk. So where was the monitoring bracelet?

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July 26, 2010

Truck Strikes Motorcycle Near Rockingham, North Carolina on US 220

motorcycle crash near rockingham.jpgOn Saturday afternoon, a pick-up truck driver failed to see an oncoming motorcycle before making a left hand turn and caused a severe collision. The pick-up truck driver, Doris Collins, 70, of Nicole Lane, in Rockingham, North Carolina was headed southbound on U.S. Highway 220 in Richmond County just before the crash.

A motorcycle driven by Doug Franklin, 35, of Greenfield Road, in Hamlet, North Carolina was headed northbound on U.S. 220. Also on the motorcycle was a young juvenile passenger.


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The northbound motorcycle had the right of way, but the southbound truck crossed into the oncoming lane and struck the motorcycle.

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July 21, 2010

Winston-Salem Jury Awards $6 Million Against Sports Bar & Drunk Driver

tanker explosion.jpgA wrongful death claim brought by a Forsyth County, North Carolina widow on behalf of her deceased husband recently resulted in a $6,000,000 jury verdict. The case is Roadway Express and Constance Sue Horn, Individually and as Administratrix of the Estate of Mark Joseph Horn v. Mickey Joe Hayes and The Inzone, Inc.

In the early morning hours of March 7, 2004, Mark Horn drove his Roadway Express tractor trailer northbound on US Highway 52. At the same time, defendant Mickey Hayes, who had been drinking at The Inzone sports bar for several hours prior to entering the highway, was racing another vehicle headed northbound on US Highway 52. Witnesses reported observing the racing cars traveling at speeds over 100 miles per hour. As defendant Hayes came up behind Mr. Horn's tractor trailer, he attempted to pass him in the emergency lane on the right hand side of the highway.

As defendant Hayes got along side of the tractor trailer, both vehicles were approaching a bridge, and defendant Hayes veered in front and cut the tractor trailer off at the last minute. Mr. Horn swerved and crashed through the bridge, and his tractor trailer exploded and burst into flames as it impacted the roadway below the bridge. Mr. Horn died in the crash.

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July 10, 2010

Four Witnesses Watched Trucker Hit Cary Motorcyclist on I-85

Cary Motorcyclist.jpgThe North Carolina State Highway Patrol reported that four (4) separate witnesses called them about the horrendous crash caused by tractor-trailer driver Michael Gray Rigsbee, 38, of Creedmore. Rigsbee struck a motorcycle ridden by Sean Christopher Newman, 38, of Cary near mile marker 220 in Henderson, North Carolina. The collision sent Newman into the median. Newman was thrown from his motorcycle, and authorities say he was killed instantly.

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July 9, 2010

Cary, NC Motorcyclist Killed By Hit & Run Tractor-Trailer Driver

Cary Motorcyclist Killed by Hit & Run TT.jpgThursday evening, around 7 pm on I-85 southbound near Henderson, NC, a tractor-trailer driven by Michael Gray Rigsbee, 38, struck a motorcyclist. The impact near mile marker 220 caused Sean Christopher Newman, of Cary, to lose control of his motorcycle and crash into the median. The severe impact instantly and tragically killed Newman. Unbelievably, the truck driver did not stop after the collision.

North Carolina State Highway Patrol Troopers caught up with the criminal truck driver approximately 20 miles further down the interstate. State Troopers charged the truck driver with 2nd degree murder, careless and reckless driving, and felony hit & run. The truck driver is currently behind bars in the Vance County Jail under a $120,000 bond. Let's hope he stays there.

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