On June 25, 2011, a 91-year old woman from San Jose, Leona Fernadez, drove her Buick sedan forty-feet into the recreation room of a local nursing home. As a result two residents were killed and several others injured. After a several month investigation the Santa Clara County District Attorney concluded that Fernadez was neither intoxicated nor criminally negligent in the accident. The investigation further concluded that the elderly motorist either was driving with both feet on each pedal or her right foot mistook the accelerator for the brake.
In California, gross vehicular manslaughter is a serious charge, even when alcohol is not alleged factor. However, to prove such a charge the District Attorney has to show that while the defendant was driving a motor vehicle she committed an act (criminal or lawful) that might, cause a death of another and the defendant committed this act with gross negligence. Lastly, this grossly negligent act did in fact cause a death.
To find that the act amounted to gross negligence requires that a jury conclude that the defendant acted in away so unlike that of an ordinarily and prudent person confronted with the same situation that it amounts to a total disregard for human life or a total indifference to the consequences of that act.
The District Attorney concluded that Ms. Fernadez did not act in a way that was reckless and indifferent to human life. She simply made a mistake, one that an ordinary and prudent person could have made in a similar situation.
Source: Mercury News