On October 23, 2019, the New Jersey Supreme Court decided the case of State v. Shangzhen Huang. This was a per curiam opinion, meaning that no particular judge signed on as the author. The rationale behind per curiam opinions is that it is a straight forward application of the law to the facts of the case. Therefore, no particular judge or justice has a basis to conduct a unique analysis. The principal issue involved the alleged mind state of the defendant and whether he was entitled to the dismissal of his indictment for vehicular homicide and assault.
The Court wrote in relevant part: In this appeal as of right, the Court considers whether an indictment charging defendant with second-degree vehicular homicide of a child, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-5, and fourth-degree assault by auto of the child’s mother, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(c)(1), was properly dismissed. The statutes pertaining to both counts of the indictment require the State to prove that defendant drove a vehicle recklessly. Defendant argued, and the motion judge concluded, the evidence presented to the grand jury failed to establish recklessness.
That evidence indicated that defendant made a left turn onto a four-lane, forty-mile-per-hour road from a commercial driveway. In the course of the turn, he depressed the accelerator of his car roughly three-quarters of the way to the car’s floor and never applied the brakes. Defendant left the roadway, mounted the curb on the side of the road opposite the driveway from which he set out, and drove with the driver-side wheels on the sidewalk and passenger-side wheels on the front yard of a structure. He sheared two street signs before crashing into a concrete planter. A metal support from one of the signs hit a six-year-old child in the head, causing trauma that led to his death. The child’s mother, who was walking with him, suffered internal injuries when she was struck by a piece of sheared metal. Defendant’s car entered an intersection, still driving parallel to the highway. After crossing the intersecting street, hitting curb-side items along his route, defendant re-entered the highway and traversed all four lanes without ever stopping. Defendant ultimately crashed his car into a tree.
The description of the facts begs the question of how someone that was not intoxicated could drive so poorly. It is a safe bet that at a minimum, they were an inexperienced driver.