The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday October 27th

Jury still deliberating after hearing closing arguments in the Chandler Kania trial

By 5 p.m, there was still no verdict.

Authorities say Kania was driving drunk on the wrong side of I-85 when he crashed into another car. The crash killed three people — Darlene McGee, 46, Felecia Harris, 49, and Jahnice Beard, 6 — and injured a fourth, Jahnia King, now 11.

Kania, now 21, pleaded guilty to various charges including three counts of felony death by vehicle.

He pleaded not guilty to three counts of second-degree murder and one count of reckless driving.

The jury heard from 35 different witnesses called by the prosecution over the course of the trial.

The defense did not call any witnesses.

For second-degree murder, the jury has three possible decisions: guilty of second-degree murder, guilty of involuntary manslaughter and not guilty.

The main factor in deciding which of these verdicts is reached is the element of malice, which separates second-degree murder from involuntary manslaughter.

Wade Smith, one of Kania’s attorneys, said there was no malice in the case.

“Chandler Kania’s actions on the 19th of July were dumb and stupid,” Wade Smith said. “You would not (say) wicked and evil because you know the state has not proved he was wicked and evil. He was a dumb, stupid 20-year-old kid.”

Jeff Nieman, the assistant district attorney, said the state is not required to prove that Kania intended to kill three people that night, but only that his intent was to drive. He said there was a clear intent to operate the vehicle in a reckless manner.

“This is not a drunk driving case,” Nieman said. “This is a driving while angry case, a driving while selfish case fueled by alcohol.”

Nieman showed evidence Kania has previously smoked marijuana while driving, which he said shows Kania’s attitude toward others on the highway.

“Voluntary intoxication is not a defense to the crime of second-degree murder and does not negate the element of malice,” Nieman said.

In his closing argument, Roger Smith Jr., one of Kania’s attorney’s, said Kania is presumed innocent and presumed to have not acted with malice. The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he acted with malice.

“That boy over there isn’t a murderer,” he said while pointing at Kania.

The jury will reconvene at 9:30 a.m. Friday to reach a unanimous decision.

City Editor Jane Little contributed reporting.



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