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State v. Larson

    Citation. 1998 SD 80,582 N.W.2d 15,1998 S.D.

    Brief Fact Summary. Appellant hit with his car and killed two construction workers on a highway. Appellant was convicted of two counts of second-degree manslaughter.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. The word “recklessly” imports a conscious and unjustifiable disregard of a substantial risk that the offender’s conduct may cause a certain result or may be of a certain nature.

    Facts. A construction crew was working in the right lane of a highway that was separated from the driving lane by candlestick dividers placed approximately one foot inside the lane the crew was working in. The posted speed limit was 75 MPH and 55 MPH through the construction site. Appellant, traveling between 62 and 68 MPH, crossed the center line and killed two construction workers. Appellant was convicted of two counts of second-degree manslaughter (reckless killing of another). Appellant argues that the construction crew did not have the proper markings and that the States’ comment that Appellant showed a microsecond of recklessness was insufficient to support the conviction.

    Issue. Whether there was sufficient evidence presented to support two counts of second-degree manslaughter.

    Held. Affirmed.
    The word “recklessly” imports a conscious and unjustifiable disregard of a substantial risk that the offender’s conduct may cause a certain result or may be of a certain nature.

    Recklessness requires more than ordinary negligent conduct. The focus is on the state of mind of the individual, and whether his conduct is perceived as negligent or reckless depends upon his awareness of the risk his behavior creates.

    Dissent. The dissent argued that just because the construction crew was visible does not mean Appellant saw them in time to slow down. The dissent argued that Appellant could not have been reckless if he did not know of the risk he was undertaking. There is no evidence to show that a lower speed would have prevented the accident.

    Discussion. The Court focused on Appellant’s admission that he was speeding despite being aware of the construction crew on the highway. This constituted a conscious disregard for the safety of the construction crew.


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