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Grand Jury says no criminal charges for woman in SW Multnomah Blvd crash – UPDATED

Posted by on April 5th, 2011 at 2:01 pm

A Multnomah County Grand Jury decided today that 63-year old Candice Palmer — the woman who told police investigators she reached into her back seat to tend to her dog and then struck and seriously injured a man who was bicycling on SW Multnomah Blvd — should not face criminal charges.

Palmer’s car swerved into 20-year old Reese Wilson while he rode home from work on the 6100 block of SW Multnomah Blvd on February 4th. Palmer had her dog in the car and reportedly looked into the rear seat where the dog was just prior to the collision. After hitting Wilson, Palmer’s car ran through a fence and came to rest on the side of a house.

Wilson sustained life threatening injuries including head trauma and spent several weeks in the Intensive Care Unite at OHSU hospital.

After the decision was reached by the Grand Jury, the lead investigator on the case for the Portland Police Bureau issued Palmer a traffic citation for violating ORS 811.135: Careless Driving causing serious injury to a vulnerable road user (read more about the Vulnerable Roadway User provision here). Her court appearance is set for May 5, 2011.

UPDATE #1, 4/5 at 5:25pm:
Just off the phone with Chuck Sparks from the Multnomah County DA’s office. He says the Grand Jury heard lengthy testimony over several days before coming to their conclusion that Palmer’s actions did not rise to the level of recklessness required to find criminal wrongdoing. Sparks also noted that Palmer had never had a traffic ticket in her life and that she had never been arrested. Crash investigators believed Palmer’s speed wasn’t a factor. Crash reconstruction experts with the PPB determined that she was going an estimated 41-53 mph in a 40 mph zone. There was a sign posted for 30 mph due to a construction zone, but since the zone was inactive, it wasn’t considered to be a safety hazard (meaning 40 mph could be considered the safe speed in this case).

In a nutshell, the Grand Jury likely looked at the totality of evidence and saw a woman who wasn’t breaking any laws, was not impaired by any substance, was cooperative and remorseful, and who had a long life without any run-ins with the law — but who simply had a momentary lapse of good judgment.

UPDATE #2, 4/6 at 10:45am:
Here is a statement from Reese Wilson’s lawyer:

“Reese is doing remarkably well for a man who had his head opened two months ago. That said, there have been, and will be so many complications, so much to worry about medically, financially- generally everything in the future is a worry. That Candice Palmer is not held criminally liable, in my opinion, doesn’t make any difference to Reese’s struggle. I also read the police report and did not read the word “sorry” anywhere.”

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Tomas Quinones
Guest

What’s the fine on this citation? Will she have her license suspended? Has she learned any lessons from this incident?

As I spend so much time on the road as a vulnerable user, my opinion may be biased, but this doesn’t seem like justice.

Paul Hanrahan
Guest
Paul Hanrahan

Unfreakingbelievable

9watts
Guest
9watts

What else is new?!Haven’t we hear this before?
Good lawyer? Bias against cyclists in the population from whom jurors are selected? What an unjust outcome. Any news on how Reese is doing?

Matt Haughey
Guest

She’s still responsible (or her insurance company is) for all the medical bills and recovery therapy on the rider, the property damage to the fence and house, right? If that’s the case, it sounds like the minor infraction is about all you could hope for in a terrible (dumb IMO) accident like this.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

I hope that he sues the crap out of her.

daisy
Guest
daisy

Sue the crap out of her? She will have the option to file for bankruptcy which means virtually nothing for the victim.

Sleep well distracted driver, sleep well.

matt picio
Guest

Grand juries are selected from “average” citizens. The majority of citizens drive, and the majority of them have done something similar and thought nothing of it.

Until people are willing to accept that being careless with a car is the same as being careless with a gun, these incidents will not be charged as crimes. That’s a conceptual leap that the average citizen isn’t ready to make.

ilikeyournewhaircut
Guest

I’m not responsible enough to handle an Idaho stop, but it’s okay for this bozo to handle a car without looking at the road? What a load of horsehockey.

Zach
Guest
Zach

As the saying goes, any prosecutor worth her salt can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich.

Criminal law is a funny thing – in general, it’s much more focused on a person’s actions than whatever results. Failing to pay attention for a moment when driving, or riding, or whatever, even for a dumb reason, is something we all do every day, and is not a crime.

michael bogoger
Guest

I was the victim of a similar incident just before my 40th birthday. I am now nearly 58. My life has gone into a tailspin. I can’t hold a job, have no medical insurance. I still advocate for bicycles and would like to see metro areas cleared of cars, but my advice to every rider is; you can’t be too careful. Assume you are a vulnerable, slow moving target. Avoid heavily travel roads, use safety equipment and never let down your guard.
This case is not over, there is still civil court, but for Reese, life will never be the same.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Just out of curiosity, what could they have charged her with. Reckless driving? Attempted murder? Also, what is the general punishment for careless driving?

beth h
Guest

This decision is total garbage.
Only problem is, what can be done? As long as grand juries — and msot of society in this country — are comprised of car owners and drivers, the conceptual leap Matt speaks cannot be made by enough people.

Shoemaker
Guest
Shoemaker

It’s a big deal that PPB issued a citation for careless driving. I am very happy to see that.

This may lead to the first conviction for careless driving.

Police have been reluctant to issue citations for careless driving, DAs reluctant to prosecute and judges reluctant to convict.

This is one of a long string of grievous offenses by drivers against bikes and pedestrians. A conviction for careless driving has the potential to set a whole new tone on the rights and responsibilities of drivers.

Check out the terms of 811.135 here:
http://www.leg.state.or.us/ors/811.html

9watts
Guest
9watts

Let’s imagine for a moment that Ms. Palmer had hit and seriously injured – the Mayor–I know, kind of a stretch, but this is a thought experiment–could this have any effect on the Grand Jury’s decision?

I am outraged that people (in this case Reese Wilson) are treated so badly by our legal system, and I am trying to understand what it is about people on bikes that makes them (apparently) easily dismissed in these legal contexts.

captainkarma
Guest
captainkarma

…and they wonder why bicyclists can be militant…

Carter
Guest

Don’t be too quick to jump to conclusions. Just because there is no criminal charge does not mean there cannot be severely painful civil penalties. Remember OJ. 😛

This is an unfortunate example of why the Idaho Stop Law and designed only for bikes roads are such a good idea. Help keep cyclists off busy streets (like multnomah) and provide efficient (for them) alternatives. I have been a “not attentive enough” driver in my day changing my radio, contact shifting painfully out of place, spilling coffee in my lap, etc. Unfortunately you are unlikely to remove the inattentive driver from the road so look for solutions elsewhere.

9watts
Guest
9watts

Unfortunately you are unlikely to remove the inattentive driver from the road so look for solutions elsewhere.

Peak Oil and Climate Change will be accompanied by so many salutary and overlooked side benefits.

Carter
Guest

9watts

Peak Oil and Climate Change will be accompanied by so many salutary and overlooked side benefits.

I doubt that will be in my lifetime and I am not yet 30. I base this mainly off chats with petroleum engineer friends who would be wise enough to start switching careers if they saw it coming, its not coming.

Peak oil will have lots of good, but also lots of bad (unless you live so local that you own nothing that requires matter from outside 20 miles from you.)

I personally would like to see changes like I mentioned in the near term because Peak oil is not going to help the Reese of tomorrow or even the Reese of 3 years from now.

Jpdx
Guest
Jpdx

If the rider was not wearing a helmet then it’s negligence on his part as well. I know it’s not the law, but I am pretty sure the dumbazz was not wearing a helmet. Which tells me he doesn’t care about his own safety all that much.

Jpdx
Guest
Jpdx

In all these comments, I am the only one mentioning the word Helmet… wow, this is sad. Wake up morons!

9watts
Guest
9watts

Peak Oil already happened, according to the International Energy Agency. Now we get to discover how we’ll get by with less petroleum at rising prices. 40 out of 54 countries that drill for and sell petroleum already peaked. Plenty of petroleum engineers are on board with this. Climate Change is also already well underway.
Will these two unfortunate changes trickle down to wholesale abandonment of automobility in Oregon in the next five years? Not likely. But in the next 15? I think yes.

And by all means let’s do whatever we can in the meantime to keep future Reeses from getting mowed down by motorists.

efairlay
Guest
efairlay

It’s frustrating but I think the fine is significant. I only have a bicycle and take my two kids to school most mornings and afternoons in the bike trailer. I don’t believe any more punishment is necessary for her. I’ll bet she’s learned her lesson. I wish all drivers took their responsibilities as seriously as, say, an airline pilot, but until then let’s remain as positive as possible.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Guest

FYI, I just posted this update:
Just off the phone with Chuck Sparks from the Multnomah County DA’s office. He says the Grand Jury heard lengthy testimony over several days before coming to their conclusion that Palmer’s actions did not rise to the level of recklessness required to find criminal wrongdoing. Sparks also noted that Palmer had never had a traffic ticket in her life and that she had never been arrested. Crash investigators believed Palmer’s speed wasn’t a factor. Crash reconstruction experts with the PPB determined that she was going an estimated 41-53 mph in a 40 mph zone. There was a sign posted for 30 mph due to a construction zone, but since the zone was inactive, it wasn’t considered to be a safety hazard (meaning 40 mph could be considered the safe speed in this case).

In a nutshell, the Grand Jury likely looked at the totality of evidence and saw a woman who wasn’t breaking any laws, was not impaired by any substance, was cooperative and remorseful, and who had a long life without any run-ins with the law — but who simply had a momentary lapse of good judgment.

David
Guest
David

Paying attention while driving should not be optional–it should be a requirement, and the laws should reflect this.

JE
Guest
JE

This is why I drive.

Drew
Guest
Drew

Jpdx writes:
“In all these comments, I am the only one mentioning the word Helmet… wow, this is sad. Wake up morons!”

I assume Jpdx wears a helmet while driving, as a pedestrian, and walking up and down stairs, all of which carry as great or greater risk of head injury than biking. When he is 80 years old, or if he gets a diagnosis of seizures, he will wear a helmet all day, every day as soon as he gets out of bed, and while sleeping unless his bed has siderails. I assume this because he considers himself to be awake, and not a moron.

Mike Fish
Guest
Mike Fish

AAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!

Dude
Guest
Dude

This is a disgrace to the American justice system.

wally
Guest
wally

Despite the aversion of bike advocates to the word “accident,” the average citizen believes “accidents happen,” and that accidents are not the result of criminal behavior. I hope that our civil justice system will come to Reese’s aid, since one purpose of the civil courts is to compensate victims of “accidents” caused by negligence.

kww
Guest
kww

well, in instances such as this, there was non-criminal wrongdoing present and the civil courts will handle this next phase I assume.

david
Guest
david

she should get a job as a walmart greeter and pay back his medical bills.

Eric
Guest
Eric

From the update, I actually do feel sorry for her. Maybe sorry isn’t the right word, empathy(?) But times that I’ve just missed an accident by inches because something stupid I’ve done, I’m surprised there aren’t more accidents and I thank god I was lucky.

Evan
Guest
Evan

Once again, this proves that drivers are not held responsible for their actions.

Stumptown
Guest
Stumptown

Thanks for the informational update. As with all of these kind of things nobody outside the investigation really knows all the details of the situation. It’s a reminder for all riders to watch out for yourself as anything can happen.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Guest

Here’s another update. This comes from Reese Wilson’s lawyer:

“Reese is doing remarkably well for a man who had his head opened two months ago. That said, there have been, and will be so many complications, so much to worry about medically, financially- generally everything in the future is a worry. That Candice Palmer is not held criminally liable, in my opinion, doesn’t make any difference to Reese’s struggle. I also read the police report and did not read the word “sorry” anywhere.”

Chris
Guest
Chris

A helmet will help in any situation where your head makes contact with an object. I would imagine this includes getting hit by a car. What is with all this hostility towards helmets? If you don’t want to wear one, cool with me, just don’t try to tell me it’s not going to help to try and justify your poor decision.

Joe
Guest
Joe

she should have to pay for his bills, am i wrong?
this has to stop. the hurt are left to pay for it. * sad *

Joe
Guest
Joe

ohh helmet cops.. come on put helmets on the drivers. be safe everyone is a wild world

chelsea
Guest
chelsea

I wish events like this were more publicized or maybe made into PSA’s so people would actually think about the consequences when behind the wheel. It only takes a second of inattention to change or end a life forever.

mabsf
Guest
mabsf

I see the driver as a typical example of car-seduced person: “It’s so save to drive, the car nearly drives itself… I can check on the doggy in the back seat.” Her generation literally grow up with car advertisement – a brand of brainwashing that is only comparable to the tobacco industry.

If driving would be as tactile as bicycling she would have snarled at the dog to shut up because she had to navigate…

I hope that she is a good person, will do the right thing and pay Reece’s medical bills…

PorterStout
Guest
PorterStout

Many comments want to turn this into a “car vs. bike” issue, but the laws don’t change because of what was hit. The grand jury would presumably have come to the same decision whether she’d hit another car, a pedestrian, or a building. The cause of this collision was distracted driving, and that’s all the grand jury determined. They’re not letting someone get away with anything because it was a cyclist, come on. I see drivers every day on their cell phones (and almost been hit by more than one) even though it’s supposed to be illegal. If we want future drivers to face criminal charges we have to make distracted driving (any distracted driving!) a real crime. But even then there won’t be any difference in the eyes of the law based on what a distracted driver collides with. But, the unfortunate victim can (and probably should) hire a good attorney and file a lawsuit against the driver. That’s where damages in a particular circumstance are “recompensed,” to the extent they ever can be.

deborah
Guest
deborah

A sad sad day for the American Justice system!

Hang in there Reese! As far as karma goes, you’re bound to win the lottery or better after getting run over and then being held at fault for just being there to be run over! I can only hope for your speedy and full recovery. And please do protect that precious head of yours when out on the road! In most cases it won’t do anything other than make you feel dorky and hot, but on a rare occasion it will be worth it’s weight.

And Candice Palmer – how could you even sit in a trial and defend your actions when you clearly were at fault? Forget the justice system, what about common decency and humanity? After 63 years of life you’d think that you would have learned to own up and pay the consequences for your actions!

Joe
Guest
Joe

deborah
A sad sad day for the American Justice system!
Hang in there Reese! As far as karma goes, you’re bound to win the lottery or better after getting run over and then being held at fault for just being there to be run over! I can only hope for your speedy and full recovery. And please do protect that precious head of yours when out on the road! In most cases it won’t do anything other than make you feel dorky and hot, but on a rare occasion it will be worth it’s weight.
And Candice Palmer – how could you even sit in a trial and defend your actions when you clearly were at fault? Forget the justice system, what about common decency and humanity? After 63 years of life you’d think that you would have learned to own up and pay the consequences for your actions!

so true my friend…

esther c
Guest
esther c

I would like to know if she was asked during the grand jury hearing if she had seen the cyclist on the roadway before she made the decision to tend to her dog in the back seat?

I think if knowing there was a vulnerable user on the roadway she still made the risky decision to take her eye off the road I do not understand how this could not be criminal negligence.

What good are laws saying the fine is higher if you hit a vulnerable user if its not criminal to do so? Big whoop, a higher civil penalty.

Paul Johnson
Guest
Paul Johnson

WTF? Was it an all-Californian jury or something?

Jim O'Horo
Guest

I don’t know if PPD policy affected this incident or not, but it’s my perception that PPD’s policy of not even writing a ticket unless someone is sent off in an ambulance leads to a more general disregard for caution on the part of motorists overall. The prevailing attitude seems to be “No worries. I won’t get a ticket unless someone’s hurt.” This leads to less vigilance which in turn leads to more crashes.

jake chadwick
Guest
jake chadwick

Wearing a helmet isn’t a law for someone over 16, so while I think it is smart, I don’t think it adds any negligence to someone that, from all reports, was obeying the laws.

Ms. Palmer could still be found liable civally and is getting a significant fine. I’m not justifying her distracted driving, but the fact that she hadn’t had a single ticket in 63 years shows she wasn’t in the habit of recklessly driving around town.

From what I’ve read I agree that she should not be criminally prosecuted (but should be punished), but I understand someone else might disagree. However, to say things like I bet she hasn’t learned anything from this, she’ll be back on the road ready to kill someone else in no time, etc. seems to ignore the fact that she is a human being that is no doubt going through an extremely difficult time dealing with this incident. I’m not justifying her actions, but to suggest that she’s just happy to get off, hasn’t learned anything, etc. is ridiculous.

The collision, was a tragedy, not one without responsibility, but one that I would guarantee you has had a negative physical and emotional impact on both parites and families. One party is the responsible one, but when you haven’t had a ticket in 63 years, it strongly suggests she wasn’t in the habit of driving around recklessly. I hope Mr. Wilson continues his recovery as he deals with a tough battle that was not self-inflicted.

jake chadwick
Guest
jake chadwick

Justin, while I have a slightly different slant on whether this legal action was a failure, I actually agree with most of what you said. On an individual basis it is a hard decision, but on a general basis we need to figure out something to make focused driving a priority. The posts that I took exception to seemed to be more vindictive in nature and ignored the fact that Ms. Palmer appears to have been a safe driver for 45 or so years. If anything, that fact shows the importance of never letting your guard down when you’re the behind the wheel. Something like this can happen at any time to anyone if you’re not careful.

marie
Guest

It is to my understanding that she has not been remorseful in any way possibly. The condolence to the bicyclist or to his family does not exist from this woman. She lives in the neighborhood and everyone that lives around this road knows about the lengthy construction time that has been going on. To say the road is “suppose to be 40 mph normally” is not a factor. The fact is it was posted, for months-possibly a year, at 30 MPH. How is this not wreckless? Not reading speed signs? And how is speed not a factor? If she his Wilson going 30 MPH don’t you think his condition would be different? Physics class taught me so!!!

marie
Guest

Bjorn
Basically you either have to be drunk, or they have to be able to prove you meant to, there is not an appropriate middle level charge for people who cause severe injuries to people because of extreme carelessness, but without intent. It is a giant hole, and one that the legislature refuses to deal with.

Best Point made.