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People v. Bell



Defendant Derrick Lamar Bell appeals by right his jury conviction of second-degree murder, operating under the influence of liquor and causing death (OUIL), and operating with a suspended license and causing death. The trial court initially sentenced Bell to 35 to 60 years' imprisonment for the second-degree murder conviction, 20 to 30 years' imprisonment for OUIL causing death, and 15 to 30 years' imprisonment for driving with a suspended license and causing death, to run concurrently. However, after a hearing, the trial court amended the sentence, retaining the 20 to 30 year murder sentence but changing both the other sentences to 6 to 221/2 years' imprisonment. We affirm.

I. Basic Facts And Procedural History

This case arose out of a fatal two-car accident that occurred on Interstate 75 during rush hour on the evening of January 3, 2002, that resulted in the death of Tonya Anthony. Several drivers on the road that evening recalled seeing Bell's car driving erratically and aggressively before the accident happened.

Between 5:20 and 5:30 that evening, Wendy Kay Parrino drove onto I-75 at the Rochester Road entrance ramp and got into the far left lane. She suddenly saw Bell's car come up behind her and approach so close that she could not see its headlights in her rear view mirror. Parrino increased her speed to eighty-five miles an hour in an attempt to pull away from Bell's car, but it remained within a foot of her rear bumper. The speed limit in this area was sixty-five miles an hour. As Parrino moved into the center lane to pass a slow-moving car in the left lane, Bell followed. Parrino testified that she got back in the left lane, hoping that Bell would pass her in the center lane, but instead he pulled right behind her, prompting her to increase her speed further to avoid being hit. Bell eventually moved into the center lane, but as he drew even with Parrino's car, Parrino saw that they were closing in on Anthony's SUV in the center lane. Parrino saw Bell begin moving into her lane, straddling the center and left lane, and forcing her onto the left shoulder to avoid being struck. After Parrino moved onto the shoulder, she saw Bell swerve into the SUV, causing both vehicles to flip and leave the roadway.

Oliver Romano was driving north in the middle lane of I-75 just before Fourteen Mile Road shortly after 5:15 p.m., approximately eight miles before the accident was to occur, when he was cut off by Bell's car. Romano estimated that Bell's car was approximately one foot in front of his own. Romano watched as Bell was aggressively weaving in and out of traffic, tailgating, and occasionally pulling into the emergency lane near the left shoulder. At one point, Romano saw Bell pull into the emergency lane and lose control of the back end of his car. Romano called the state police in hopes that they could intercept Bell before an accident occurred. However, Romano watched as Bell pulled from the left lane into the center lane, hitting the front driver's side of Anthony's SUV and causing both vehicles to flip off of the highway. Romano characterized Bell's driving as "consistently reckless" the entire time leading up to the accident, and that on a scale of zero to ten, zero being most cautious and ten showing no concern for lives and safety of others, Bell was "definitely a ten."

Jerry Hammarlund, who was also driving down I-75 that day, saw Bell tailgating within six inches of the car ahead of him and repeatedly try to pass on the narrow left shoulder of the highway. Hammarlund also rated Bell's driving at a ten, and agreed that Bell was "absolutely" creating a high risk of harm to other drivers.

Alexander Bien w

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