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Man faces life in prison for DUI deaths

A Galena, Kansas man is expected to be sentenced to life in prison after a jury found him guilty of killing two people in a drunk driving accident. While this drunk driving case is more serious than most cases, all DUI allegations can have serious consequences.

According to court records, the man was driving under the influence of alcohol July 16, 2009. His vehicle collided with a vehicle driven by a 41-year-old Pittsburg, Kansas woman at an intersection south of Pittsburg. Both the woman and her 13-year-old daughter died in the crash.

Police say the man, who was 22 years old at the time of the accident, was trying to evade a Cherokee County Sheriff's Department patrol car. During the chase, police say the man reached speeds of up to 125 miles per hour.

A crash investigator for the Kansas Highway Patrol testified the man's car was traveling at roughly 98 miles per hour when he hit the woman's car. According to the investigator, the woman was traveling at less than 5 miles per hour and there was no evidence that man tried to stop before the accident.

Prosecutors charged the Galena man with one count of fleeing police and two counts of first-degree murder. The jury took just over an hour to convict the man of all three charges. The man faced first-degree murder charges because the deaths occurred while he was committing another serious felony -- fleeing from police.

The man's defense attorney tried to convince the jurors to convict the man of lesser charges such as vehicular homicide, involuntary manslaughter while driving under the influence of alcohol or second-degree unintentional murder. However, the jurors opted for first-degree murder, which, in Kansas, carries a mandatory life sentence. The man's sentencing hearing will be May 31.

In addition to the criminal conviction, the man also lost a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the woman's husband. In 2011, a judge awarded the woman's husband more than $5.7 million in damages.

Source: The Joplin Globe "Jury returns guilty verdicts on murder charges in traffic deaths," Roger McKinney, March 15, 2012

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