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Driver in Wrong Way Death Case Loses Appeal

"Depraved Indifference" contention upheld in crash that killed 7-year-old girl and limo driver.

The wrong-way drunken driver who crashed head-on into a limousine, killing a 7-year-old Lido Beach girl and a limo's driver, has lost an appeal to overturn his murder conviction.

By a 3-1 margin, the appeals court affirmed the conviction of Martin Heidgen in the horrific wrong-way crash on the Meadowbrook Parkway July 2, 2005. Heidgen, who moved to Valley Stream from Arkansas a year earlier, is serving 19 years in state prison.

The murder charges were based on the prosecution's contention that Heidgen showed "depraved indifference" by driving the wrong way for miles after a night of heavy drinking.

Katie Flynn, 7, of Lido Beach, returning from her role as a flower girl in a local wedding, was killed in the crash along with the limo driver, Stanley Rabinowitz of Farmingdale. He worked for U.S. Limousines in New Hyde Park.

Several other family members in the limousine were badly hurt.

"This decision affirms what the evidence made clear at trial: Martin Heidgen murdered Katie Flynn and Stanley Rabinowitz," said Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice. "While their families will never be able to fill the holes that Heidgen left in their lives, it is my fervent hope that they see today's decision as a great victory in the fight against drunk driving."

Jillian Harrington, Heidgen's lawyer, said she intends to appeal the decision of the state supreme court's Second Judicial Department, based in Brooklyn, to a higher court.

Heidgen's appeal centered on case law related to the meaning of "depraved indifference."

Numerous witnesses testified to seeing Heidgen driving his pick-up truck the wrong way in the southbound lanes at speeds of about 70 mph, ignoring "wrong way" signs along the way. At no time did Heidgen appear to slow down, the witnesses said, even as he closed in on the limousine's approaching headlights.

Citing eyewitness and expert testimony, the majority justices ruled that Heidgen, although more than three times over the the legal drinking limit, was capable of understanding his actions could have catastrophic results, according to Thursday's ruling.

The dissent, issued by Justice Jeffrey Cohen, argued Heidgen was too drunk to posses the mental faculties to commit depraved indifference murder. Cohen said would have reduced the charges to manslaughter.

Sue schiller September 16, 2011 at 11:00 AM
People know ahead of time what to much drinking can lead to, if they go out and get drunk they are taking the risk of arrest of all crimes they commit. As a society we have to stop saying being drunk makes the person not responsible for their actions..this guy was mentally impaired by his own actions. He should have been charged with two counts of murder in my opinion.
Donna Pisacano Brown September 16, 2011 at 11:17 AM
"How many" innocent lives must be lost and/or injured before people take seriously, the meaning of ... PLEASE DON'T DRINK AND DRIVE! Sadly, it seems that too many people continue to shrug it off until something tragic happens to them or a loved one . .. but by then, its too late. So please ... "THINK BEFORE YOU DRINK" ... your life and the life of others depend upon it!
Michele Reinbach September 16, 2011 at 04:23 PM
Katie Flynn and Stanley Rabinonowitz were murdered by a young man who not only took their ives, but has forever impacted their families lives, both emotionally and physically. This appeal will not bring Katie and Stanley back into the loving arms of their families and friends, but it will keep their memories alive in our continued fight against the stupidity of drinking and driving. Please click on the link below. I have posted it before. The message is so powerful and hopefully, will, as Donna has stated, get people to "THINk BEFORE YOU DRINK."...your life and the life of others depend on it!" http://www.youtube.com/imageservices#p/u/0/Dwp2w3Jx5nI
Brendan September 16, 2011 at 04:37 PM
I think the thing that rubs people the "wrong way" about this case is that so many people are killed by drunk drivers every year, but not all of those responsible are charged with or convicted of murder. The zeal of the prosecution seems opportunistic and seems to prey on the public outpouring of grief due to the identity of the victims, especially the young girl. I think this guy got singled out and picked on so Kathleen Rice could score political points and so the well-connected friends of the victims could get their "revenge". But I don't think it was fair. The kid deserves to be punished - but he should only be as punished as anyone else and not a smidgen more.
Michele Reinbach September 16, 2011 at 07:02 PM
Brendan, I agree with you "that so many people are killed by drunk drivers every year, but not all of those responsible are charged with or convicted of murder." That is because they "got away with murder," and hopefully now, those who continue to drink and drive, will realize that they will get punished to the full extent of the law. You are certainly entitled to your opinion regarding Kathleen Rice and the punishment that Heidgen received. However, Brendan, how would you feel if your child or an adult member of your family died because someone decided to drink irresponsibly? Would you think it was "fair" if this person was just charged and/or convicted of manslaughter? What if you not only suffered this immeasurable loss, but also suffered from debilitating physical injuries if you were also a part of a horrific tragedy? Would you be able to cope and carry on? On Sunday, September 25th, at 11:30 am, there is a COPE WALK in Long Beach, NY on the boardwalk. COPE is an acronym for "connecting our paths eternally." It is an amazing non-profit organization dedicated to connecting families with the loss of a child/sibling and helping them through the grieving process. There will be hundreds of people participating and many who will be supporting them because they share their grief. You mentioned in your comment, "the outpouring of grief, especially the young girl." That is because it is unnatural for parents to bury their child.
Brendan September 16, 2011 at 07:28 PM
Point taken Michele. I have a question for you. How would you feel if Mr. Heidgen was your son? If he made a mistake and was being held accountable for it, but was being held "more accountable" by someone making an example out of him? Aside from the obvious answer that your son would have put himself in a position to have that example made of him (which would be true, he did), would you think it was "fair" if he was to be held in prison much longer than other people who made the same exact mistake he did? Life isn't fair Michele. But the law is supposed to be.
V. P. R. September 16, 2011 at 11:08 PM
I think Mr. Martin Heidgen should be put up against a wall and executed by Firing Squad !! Being in jail is to good for that P.O.S. !
paul.d.spellman September 17, 2011 at 12:36 AM
Donna, Are you for real? In a previous comment on another subject(that you have since deleted) you asked people to think back to a time in their own lives where they made a youthful indiscretion that was caused by being under the influence. The reason you asked for that wayback look was for you to rationalize a persons actions due to their consumption of alcohol. I find it very sanctimonious of yourself to be pontificating on this post while excusing the same actions on other posts.
Sue schiller September 17, 2011 at 12:42 AM
Brenden do follow ip on the case He was 3 x the legal limit driving 70 mph no headlights on at 3-4 am. He was seen leaving the bar even though some one tried to take his keys. Maybe with agecyou will see thecreal world. Nothing iscfair. It is not fair that a 7 yr old girl did not get to live hevgetscjail time butva life he has..
Michele Reinbach September 17, 2011 at 03:16 AM
Brendan, I would be devastated if my son made the decision to drink as much Mr. Heidgen. As his parent, it would be hard for me to make sense of the fact that my son made choices that not only changed the course of his life, but murdered innocent people and physically impaired others during this horrific tragedy. As a parent, I would stand by his side and tell him I loved him, but also tell him that he deserved to be punished for his actions. I would mourn the loss of the life he would have had if he been responsible, but I would feel worse for the families left behind who did not have their Katie or Stanley to hug, to kiss, to embrace in their arms and to share life's precious moments. For even though I feel life in prison will be a very hard lesson for my son, as it will be very different from the life he had before, it is still a LIFE. Not the DEATH SENTENCE he imposed on his victims. I would be extremely upset if I felt my son was being held "more accountable" by someone making an example out of him and a longer sentence was imposed. However, I would make sure he had the best possible representation and trust our judicial system. This is a clear case of right vs. wrong, It is something parents hope and pray they teach their children. What isn't fair, Brendan is that we are still talking about drinking and driving, no matter how many tragedies are reported in the news. Does it have to "hit home" for people to be more responsible?
Wilbur September 17, 2011 at 04:48 PM
I talked about this case with a few attorney friend's of mine and they all agree the murder charge was unheard of and wrong. It was a Kathleen rice political move. I guarantee his appeal will eventually be accepted. One judge wanted to change his sentencing this week. I do believe life in prison is way to much for this, but I do have no problem with 20 years.. When your in jail for life, there is no lesson to be taught, because you are never getting out..By legal definition this was manslaughter not murder. You can't argue that, Kathleen rice doesn't have the political pull to keep his verdict at the federal level when it eventually gets there...
Donna Pisacano Brown September 17, 2011 at 04:55 PM
Paul~ I don't mean to be as you put it, "sanctimonious and pontificating on this post" about how I feel about drinking and driving. But if I am, I guess its because I was left a widow at age 23 and a single Mom of two very young children who lost their beloved Dad as a result of a DWI crash. I guess its because years later, my adult son was hit "head-on" by a repeat DWI offender while crossing the street, leaving my son seriously injured while the offender pretty much went on his way with little consequence. Bottom line, I do not excuse anyone who drinks and drives and anyone who knows me ... knows this is true.
b September 17, 2011 at 07:08 PM
Wow, Brendon your pity for the culprit in this deadly Terrorist act is un believeable. He's had prior D.W.I's. in Texas I believe. His Stupidity, Not mistake was preventable. I had my Wife, Son and Daughter Killed by one of these "HIGHWAY TERRORISTS" years ago ,happened when I was on duty in a adjacent Town, my "Zeal" was to arrest these "Murderers", and Wilbur, of course these Lawyers er Liars would say that.The Intent is there, know what that means!!!.stop making excuses,He took a life, he earned "Life in Prison".Would you feel the same pity if this deadly crime were caused by a Hand Gun???.This is Justice, not political movement.Michele, Donna, I can only say this for you two, "Well Done". Bill Dikant D.W.I. Victim Advocate, Castleton, N.Y. 12033
b September 17, 2011 at 07:10 PM
You can check me out on a Google search!, yes, I'm aware he took the life of another, Mr. Rabinowitz!.
Joe September 18, 2011 at 01:08 AM
Katheleen Rice was elected on a platform that involved a crackdown on DWI. That is what Nassau County wants. So, she's doing what she promised to do, which is what most residents who voted for her expect. It's not "political points". It's her job. If there is an unfair discrepancy with how this case was handled at sentencing, that will be decided by the courts. Guzzling enough booze to make you so drunk that you forget what direction you're driving in sounds like depraved indifference to me, and murder is what it's called when you kill people because of it.
paul.d.spellman September 18, 2011 at 01:14 AM
Donna, On a previous post , I am paraphrasing here, you asked how many people have driven drunk and then you asked if anyone could honestly say when they young and under the influence that they have done something inappropriate. The message you were trying to impart that alcohol made a person make wrong decisions and that person should not be accountable for their actions. But on this post you do not use the same logic when casting judgement in this instance while you were excusing the other actions.
Grifhunter September 19, 2011 at 07:07 PM
Lots of arm chair lawyers on here. This case has been over sentenced because of the nature of the victim IMHO. Cute girl on the way home from the wedding. Check out Sunday's newsday: a guy intentionally stabs to death another Hispanic guy outside a bar and he gets only 3-10 years. No doubt the drunk kid deserves a manslaughter charge for this crime and some serious time upstate, but when you start treating car accidents on the same level with intentional murders, be careful what you ask for.
Elizabeth September 19, 2011 at 08:25 PM
We're not talking about routine car accidents here...when you drink and then get behind the wheel of a car (in this day and age where we've seen so many alcohol-related tragedies), it is an intentional murder.
DR. Jay September 22, 2011 at 03:54 AM
For all It is a sad situation and I will say that Penal Law Definition does say that it is manslaughter. Kathleen Rice came here with a vow to crack down on D.W.I. That she has held to she has sent more DWI conviction to State Prison that any other prosecutor in New York State and probably the country. Paul I am not dis-agreeing of course at some point some of have drank and drove. People will differ on this issue and this case, If you go to Cornell Law Review I think that Appellate Attorney's are going back and forth over the debate of Murder. She got a Grand Jury to Indict him on Murder and gave him 19 years to life for it. I will leave his appeal process to the courts. A beautiful young lady who did nothing to no one lost her life, also another Individual lost his life who did nothing to no one. So it is a very touchy issue.
Grifhunter September 22, 2011 at 05:55 AM
You can't (and shouldn't) re-write the penal code based on the cuteness of the victim. I'm sorry. It is not now, nor has it ever been, the law in this state that drunk driving fatalities are "intentional murder".
b September 24, 2011 at 03:16 PM
Well there sonny boy, after previous D.W.I. arrests he knew of the repercussions of his actions which = Intent"="Murder".I'm no "Armchair Liar,er Lawyer, but I have 37 years in the system and seen more crap handed out on these non violent D.W.I. crimes, "Nonviolent" is the Supreme Courts version of this deadly crime. D.W.I. is not nor will ever be an "Accident"--------Crash is more suitable.Grifhunter, run your mouth to the Flynn's in person, I'm sure the will have a reply for you.you display stupendous Ignorance!. Bill Dikant D.W.I. Victim Advocate, Castleton, N.Y. `12033-1604

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