“Based upon the evidence that has been presented to us, we believe there are sufficient aggravating factors and evidence to support a second-degree murder charge,” said Jeff Nieman, assistant district attorney for Orange County.
According to a report by Alcohol Law Enforcement Special Agent D. R. Richardson, Kania drove his Jeep Wrangler northbound in the southbound lane before crashing into another car, killing three of the four passengers.
UNC law professor Tamar Birckhead said under North Carolina law, a second-degree murder charge requires the state to prove there was an intentional killing committed with malice.
“The fact that Kania was underage and illegally drinking, that he was driving the wrong way on I-85 for at least six miles, and that three people were killed — including a 6-year-old child — are additional facts that could potentially support the second-degree murder charge,” Birckhead said.
A DUI manslaughter charge is brought when someone is arrested for drunk driving and has caused an accident which resulted in the death of another person.
Birckhead said an involuntary manslaughter charge is an unintentional killing without malice but with culpable negligence. Authorities say Kania’s blood alcohol content level was twice the legal limit, and Birckhead said if the evidence demonstrates the defendant is aware of reckless conduct, this can support the finding of malice.
“So, the difference between the two charges is one of the state of mind of the defendant, which the state will try to demonstrate, and the defense will counter, through the circumstances of the crash,” Birckhead said.
“The state is ready to move forward,” Nieman said. “We have all the reports, and I don’t expect it to be resolved in March, but we’re going to start seeing if we can reach some type of agreement.”