Austin Pederson, 18, of Stillwater, Minn., entered the plea in St. Croix County Circuit Court to two charges of homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle.
Pederson crashed his Volkswagen Jetta last June, and two of his passengers were thrown from his car and killed. The victims were Daishonna Payne, 17, and Alan Alwin, 26, both of Somerset, Wis.
The fatal crash took place in St. Croix County. Pederson and another passenger were injured in the accident.
I have very mixed feelings about this type of justice. Yes, something profound must be done to send a statement, yet here we have a teenager, who is just learning to drive, being convicted of a serious felony, for a mistake that any of us could make, any day. The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported that the criminal complaint says Pederson had a detectable amount of marijuana in his system when tests were done two hours after the crash.
If I had been his criminal defense attorney, I think I would have defended. Nothing can bring back the two dead young people, but marijuana in your urine does not convert a tragic motor vehicle accident into a homicide. Marijuana can stay in urine for 30 days. That doesn’t prove that Pederson was intoxicated or that his intoxication caused the wreck. Now, he is a convicted “murderer.” That is just a prosecutor overcharging. Had it been a routine car wreck, no criminal charges would have been filed.
Criminal sanctions should be imposed when the conduct is truly criminal, not when the result of negligent conduct is truly bad. Justice should have been left for the civil justice system.