Jurors clear Miami-Dade cop of vehicular homicide four years after crash left man dead
The PBA called on one of its great defenders, attorney David Braun, to represent Miami-Dade Officer John Song against a charge that appeared to be flawed.
A Miami-Dade police officer, whose patrol car wreck four years ago led to the death of a man driving the other vehicle, was cleared of any wrongdoing by jurors Thursday after the officer’s attorney attacked the lead detective in the case for ignoring potential evidence.
After about 90 minutes of deliberation, jurors cleared Officer John Song of charges of vehicular homicide, reckless driving and a pair of counts of damaging property. The March 2018 accident in deep South Miami-Dade happened when Song sped through a stop sign at almost 80 miles per hour, twice the posted speed limit.
Song, a seven-year veteran at the time of the crash, had been suspended without pay since he was formally charged with the collision in the Redland that killed Emilio Jesus Vizcaino and was so violent it left his Nissan Altima and the patrol car off the road and next to a nursery.
Song’s attorney David Braun convinced jurors his client had the right to speed and ignore a stop sign while he was in pursuit of a stolen 2008 Lincoln MKX that he believed was taken two hours earlier during a home invasion robbery.
The attorney also attacked lead Miami-Dade traffic homicide Detective Mark Martinez, who admitted to not listening to all of the radio dispatch from the accident, which indicated that Song and other cops were in pursuit of the Lincoln when the deadly crash occurred.
“I definitely would have taken it into consideration had I known about it,” Martinez said under cross examination after being peppered by Braun.
Assistant State Attorney Laura Adams couldn’t convince the six-member jury in Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Ariana Fajardo Orshan’s courtroom that even had Song been chasing a felon, it didn’t give him the right to endanger anyone. State law allows emergency vehicles privileges like speeding and disobeying stop signs and traffic lights — but the law has limits when it comes to public endangerment.
“The conscious disregard for the safety of others is reckless,” she told jurors during the state’s closing argument. “This was not a mistake. This was a conscious decision.”
The crash that took Vizcaino’s life and left Song and a rookie he was training named Cesar Echevarry hospitalized, happened at 1:24 a.m. on March 5, 2018, at the intersection of Southwest 260th Street and 147th Avenue. Song was heading west on 147th when he smashed into the Nissan driven by Vizcaino. Song’s view of Vizcaino as he neared the intersection would have been blocked.
The black box in the patrol vehicle that recorded instruments in the car indicated Song was traveling at 78 mph just a half-second before the crash. Song and Echevarry were airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital. They both recovered. Echevarry, though, who briefly testifed during the trial, still has no recollection of the accident. Song never took the stand.
Song wasn’t charged in Vizcaino’s death until November 2018, more than eight months after the crash. He was suspended without pay in early 2019. His arrest warrant stated that Song was not pursuing anyone or even responding to a call at the time of the accident.
Braun, the officer’s attorney, hammered home to jurors the inaccuracy of the warrant. He told them repeatedly about the 2008 Lincoln and a Ford Fairlane from the same year that had been stolen from a Palmetto Bay home less than two hours before the fatal crash.
The initial call went out as a home invasion, said the attorney, which had Song believing he was chasing a violent felon. And that was on Song’s mind when he radioed dispatch that he believed he had seen the Lincoln just before racing through the intersection.
The attorney played radio dispatch transmissions from just before the accident that indicated several other officers were also involved in chasing the Lincoln — though none had turned on their overhead lights before being forced to redirect their focus on the crash.
In the end, jurors didn’t seem swayed by Adam’s argument that it didn’t matter whether Song was chasing a felon or not, even if it left the public in peril.
“He actually was engaged in a pursuit and that is such a critical point,” Braun said in closing. “You heard those radio transmissions yourself.”
To read the full article at the Miami Herald click here.
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