MassBike Responds To Failure Of Grand Jury To Indict

Written by Boston Biker on Feb 06

VIA MassBike’s Website:

Black memorial RibbonEarlier this week, we learned that a grand jury decided not to indict the driver of the truck that stuck and killed bicyclist Alexander Motsenigos in Wellesley last August. We are outraged at this result, and our hearts go out to the Motsenigos family who must suffer this injustice on top of their loss. We are trying to understand how this happened, in what would appear to be a clear case of motor vehicle homicide. Here is what we know:

  • The Wellesley Police Department performed a thorough investigation beginning immediately following the crash. They interviewed witnesses, collected evidence at the scene, reviewed traffic camera video, executed a search warrant at the company that owns the truck, impounded the truck, and performed extensive forensic analysis on the truck. Police tracked down the driver and interviewed him at his home the next day, and concluded that he was not being truthful in his account of the incident. They performed a simulation of the crash using the truck, a bicycle, and an officer the same size as the driver to determine what the driver could have seen. You can read the entire report of the investigation here, but be warned that it is graphic and disturbing.
  • The police filed a variety of charges against the driver, including motor vehicle homicide. The driver was also charged for Unsafe Overtaking of a Bicyclist, a law passed as part of MassBike’s 2009 Bicyclist Safety Act.
  • Prosecutors presented the case to a grand jury, which, in December, declined to indict the driver, effectively bringing an end to the investigation. Grand juries are county-wide, and closed to public view, so we will never know who was on the jury, what evidence was presented, or what was said in jury deliberations. The grand jury would have been composed of citizens from multiple communities in Norfolk County.
  • The Motsenigos family has filed a civil lawsuit against the driver and the companies that own and operate the truck.

So what went wrong? Based on the information available to us, it appears that the police and prosecutors took this case very seriously, and performed a thorough and professional investigation. Ultimately, the decision was in the hands of the grand jury and we cannot know what was in their minds. We can and should assume that the grand jurors took their job seriously – they are constantly reminded of the gravity of their decisions. But we can assume that many of them, perhaps all of them, are not cyclists – we represent a growing, but still small proportion of the population. We can be certain that most of the jurors, probably all of them, are drivers – most people, including most bicyclists, are.

I will speculate that some, perhaps all, of the jurors put themselves in the place of the truck driver and asked themselves the question “should I face felony criminal charges if I accidentally hit a bicyclist?” And in the world as it exists today, with bicyclists forced to mix with cars and trucks on roads that were not designed to be shared, and inadequate education of both motorists and bicyclists, those jurors might have decided it would not be fair to hold the truck driver accountable. The system did not fail us, but our fellow citizens did.

This is a cultural issue, where most people still view bicyclists (if they think about us at all) as daredevils and people on the fringe of society. They do not yet see us as vulnerable individuals sharing the road, people like them who deserve greater protection and vigilance. We need to get past this cultural divide, get more rapidly to the point where bicyclists are as accepted and respected as any other person on the road. We are working on this culture shift at MassBike, and we are thinking hard about how to accelerate it. We need your help, first with your ideas, and later with your participation as we move forward.

 

Massbike is a great organization, and you should support them so they can continue their work to make us all safer.


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Posted in advocacy, news | 18 Comments »


18 Responses to “MassBike Responds To Failure Of Grand Jury To Indict”

  1. By John_on_Central on Feb 6, 2013 | Reply

    Yep I am thinking the exact same thing. This state already has an issue with Drunk Driving convictions, the Globe did a huge story on it last year (or maybe the previous anyway) and that was with judges. This is a case where a jury of your peers is not really going to cut it. I am not sure of a solution, other than getting more folks on bikes. How many will have to die and how many will not be prosecuted for their deaths until we get there though.

  2. By Knock It Off on Feb 7, 2013 | Reply

    Stop wholesale ripping off content from other sites! Pick a choice quote or a few sentences, and link to the article.

    You’re *stealing content*, and it’s not right whether you do it from MassBike or the Globe.

  3. By brad on Feb 7, 2013 | Reply

    Knock it off, What is “right and what is wrong” depends on the context or who gets to define the context.

    Boston Biker can answer for themselves but if fewer people are reading Dave Watsons thoughts on MassBike website and by republishing it here, more consciousness and less driving on automatic pilot occurs by bikers and motorists, who is being harmed?

    If you go to Massbike website you will see my response to Davids posting.

    Am I wrong to extract for you some Wellesly citizens responses regarding the safety of the Weston and Linden St intersection? Both before and after the crash.

    I hope Wellesly traffic planners will learn how to effectively slow down motorists as they travel along Weston rd before Linden St. How many of the angry and mad cyclists are picking up on the fact that the road narrows just after linden st. creating a conflict between bicyclists and overtaking motorist?

    If you don’t live in Wellesly, tell the traffic planners in your community to effectively deal with Manufactured Conflicts at intersections.
    Nationwide,worldwide, that is where most cyclists are dying.

    Henry Dormitzer
    12:44 pm on Saturday, August 25, 2012
    This is a dangerous intersection. I have experienced issues on my bicycle here. Northbound cars on Weston Road descending from the railroad bridge respond to the gentle right bend in the road by driving close to the right hand curb immediately north of the intersection with Linden. The curb is high, and a cyclist has no way to react to being squeezed by a northbound car because to go right is catch a pedal or wheel on the curb.
    Reply
    Wellesley Mom
    1:39 pm on Saturday, August 25, 2012
    I’ve lived near this intersection for over a year now and this accident was no one off. I have experienced near misses walking through this crosswalk with my family and seen even more. Drivers disregard the blinking reds (even with the recent addition of the bright white flashing bulbs to the red lights). I came home to a disturbing, tragic scene yesterday evening and all I could think was how predictable this was.
    karen
    6:59 pm on Sunday, July 8, 2012
    I agree with Washington Street and Weston, Why there aren’t any left turn arrows for drivers turning onto Washington in both directions is a mystery to me. The way the roads intersect makes it impossible for drivers going in either direction to pull forward to wait to turn without blocking drivers staying on Weston to pass through the intersection. Weston and Linden is another nightmare in Peak traffic will it ever be a “normal” lighted intersection, The blinking yellow does nothing to slow traffic on Weston, it seems to make them go faster.Turning left onto Weston at peak times is difficult at best and entirely dependent on the good grace of drivers on Weston Road.

  4. By ChrisS on Feb 7, 2013 | Reply

    Three ways to draw attention to a post on another web site:

    1) Link to it

    2) Copy sections of it, with attribution, and a link.

    3) Copy it with no attribution, and no indication that these words were not your own.

  5. By SJE on Feb 7, 2013 | Reply

    My instinct is that the key failure was not bringing in the drivers record. The jurors might not want to be prosecuted for accidently killing a cyclist, but they would see things differently once they realize that this guy was a serial offender.

  6. By DKB on Feb 7, 2013 | Reply

    Why does everyone assume the grand jury did not consider the driver’s record? Since their proceedings are secret, we don’t know WHAT they considered unless there are leaks.

  7. By Dotbiker on Feb 7, 2013 | Reply

    Isn’t Wellesley in Middlesex County?

  8. By SJE on Feb 7, 2013 | Reply

    DKB: I am going from what was reported. The deliberations of the grand jury are secret, but we can still know whether this was presented to the GJ

  9. By Angry Dan on Feb 7, 2013 | Reply

    @DKB: “While the driving record could be used by investigators to determine probable cause, the record was not admissible as evidence during grand jury proceedings.”

    From here: http://theswellesleyreport.com/2013/02/grand-jury-no-criminal-charges-in-fatal-wellesley-cycling-accident/

  10. By terry on Feb 7, 2013 | Reply

    Dotbiker,

    I regularly read biker blogs from Chicago, NYC, Portland and now even Wellesly Police reports. I do so, to learn something about increasing safety for all cyclists.

    A lot of Boston triathaletes might cycle out to Walden Pond and do not have the high degree of bike mentoring/training of an educated cyclist. All cyclist’s should know and be periodically reminded that many roads in Boston and in surrounding communities are or will be be purposely narrowed in the “interest of safety”. I learned that at a workshop in Boston several weeks ago.

    Besides Dave Watson from MassBikes, I did not see any of the other Boston Area Bike groups represented at a talk sponsored my MAPC several weeks ago. “Slow down! Speed reduction strategies for Vibrant Communities.”, was the name of the talk.

    MAPC Metropolitan Area Planning Commission is in downtown Boston and on the 6th floor there are at least 6 transportation planners DotBikers will be affected by in the future.
    I would be interested to learn how traffic calming methods will be employed in Dorchester even though I stopped bicycle commuting to Dorchester 30 years ago.

  11. By Tom Guerriero on Feb 7, 2013 | Reply

    This issue may or not be, this complicated. There are many laws in existence to cover all traffic situations. They are however, useless unless they are enforced.
    Whose job is enforcement? You guessed it, THEY aren’t doing the f….ng job they are being well paid to do!

  12. By DKB on Feb 8, 2013 | Reply

    The Wellesley Report DOES say that his record was not admissible. I don’t see how that can be true, however. Only the prosecutor and the grand jurors are aware of all of the evidence that was presented and the proceedings are supposed to be secret (so how would a reporter know what was presented?) According to the Mass Rules of Criminal Procedure, a grand jury may hear hearsay evidence (which McCoomb’s driving record would be) even though that evidence might not be admitted at trial. McCoomb’s lawyer would only have been present if and when McCoomb himself testified and would not have been allowed to make objections even then. So who could make an objection to the grand jury asking about the driving record? No one, I think. Furthermore, there’s no judge to rule on an objection even if one were made. If the grand jury was NOT made aware of McCoomb’s dismal driving record, the fault lies with the prosecutor for not bringing a witness who could testify to it. Someone, tell me where I am wrong.

  13. By KillMoto on Feb 8, 2013 | Reply

    It’s clear we need a few things in the 21st century if we want to stop the 100 or so motorist killings a day in the USA. Motorists kill more people under age 40 than all other sources combined, and have done so consistently for the last 60 years.

    We need:
    1) Drivers, as a pre-condition to driving, must waive the presumption of innocence till proven guilty. Given the murderous history of driving as an activity, no sane person can presume innocence.

    2) Telemetry data from motor vehicles (and the drivers piloting them) cannot be considered private, They must be published. Time, location, speed and identity should be simultaneously recorded for forensic back-trace, easy to retrieve with simple, inexpensive tools, and broadcast over open standards (WiFi) in real time for safety purposes (V2V communications).

    3) Time to put smart chips in licenses, and smart chip readers in cars. The chip tells the car who is driving, any restrictions, etc. A person who has had their license suspended? Well, having keys alone won’t start that car. License and PIN code, please… This is the 21st century for Gump’s sake. Let’s act like it.

  14. By Joseph Barnett on Feb 10, 2013 | Reply

    Unfairly or not, minorities are judged…some good such as asians are smart. Bicyclists are put in lots of ads showing fun and good health so we are judged well on this issue. But we need good PR showing real good people on bikes AS TRANSPORTATION.

    Maybe publish all the pain this cyclist’s family is going through. Put all the good things this cyclist did good. I wrote such a story in our paper and it seemed to get people sympathetic and think about improving their driving. But people do feel better when a victim is at fault. And culture is hard to change. Maybe include car drivers abd pedestrian victims of dangerous drivers like MADD dies well. Join MADD as ….BADD….bikers against dangerous drivers….

  15. By brad on Feb 10, 2013 | Reply

     I can  remember when bicycle safety was taught by police who hadn’t driven a bike in over  thirty years.  Their repeated message of obey,
    obey, OBEY the traffic laws has mellowed since some actually travel now on bike patrols. Watching 2 recent police training  videos has instilled some sense that some day they will “get it”.

    I hope that watching this 5 min video will allow you to believe at least some police have empathy for plight of cyclists on the dangerous edge.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mqvgr-cH_A8

  16. By brad on Feb 10, 2013 | Reply

    Joseph,
    As important as the need for BADD, there needs to be multiple CADDs enforcing the laws.

  17. By terry on Feb 10, 2013 | Reply

    Brad

    That is a great video out of Orlando Florida but did you read about the CAD’s caught in Miami in early February?

    “Entire Miami police squad fired after footage shows cops shopping, dining and kissing while ignoring 911 calls’

    Cops suck, when there not caught shopping at BJ’s on the public’s dime they are soliciting BJ’s.

    Maybe if we catch more of the Boston cops on camera in dereliction of duty we will be left with the good ones?

  18. By brad on Feb 11, 2013 | Reply

    “Helping others see that which is hidden in plain site” That is a phrase I woke up hearing on WBUR radio this morning when my radio alarm clock came on.

    Terry I’m not going to tell you to stop watching gotcha journalism on FOX25 because I just turned turned on that channel to see pictures of the city streets and the piles and piles of snow pushed to the sides where we are expected to ride.

    My thoughts this morning are to get on the internet and make a few phone calls to see if there is a precedent for a bicycling-in-the-snow PSA(public service announcement).

    As an athletic coach I preach not to get MAD at that which you have no control over. I think that is what disturbs me about focusing on what a grand jury did or will do in the future.

    What we as cyclist can continue to do everyday is be wary of pinch points along ones daily rides. If you see one, don’t rush headlong toward it without being aware of the traffic we should collaborate with not compete with.

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