Maine manslaughter case focuses on textingBy CLARKE CANFIELD , Associated Press
Sep. 9, 2013 4:31 PM ET
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Kristina Lowe became a warning of the dangers of texting while driving after police blamed a combination of drinking and texting for a late-night car crash in western Maine that killed two of Lowe's friends last year.
But Lowe's attorney told the Maine Supreme Judicial Court on Monday that she wasn't texting at all when she lost control of her car in West Paris in January 2012. And without proof that Lowe was texting, prosecutors don't have a manslaughter case against her, Jim Howaniec told justices.
"This has been one my biggest frustrations with this case; this has been a big texting case," he said. "The fact of the matter is my client wasn't texting."
Lowe, who was 18 at the time of the crash, is charged with two counts of manslaughter, two counts of aggravated criminal operating under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident.
Prosecutors say Lowe had been drinking and was speeding and texting when her car went airborne into trees after leaving an underage drinking party shortly after midnight on Jan. 7, 2012. The crash killed two passengers, 19-year-old Logan Dam and 16-year-old Rebecca Mason. Lowe was seriously injured and another passenger also survived.
When Lowe was interviewed by a trooper while on pain medications at Maine Medical Center after the accident, she initially said she couldn't have been the driver because she was too drunk to drive and was texting at the time of the crash. A lower-court judge suppressed some of her statements — including those about texting — but not others.
Prosecutors appealed the ruling to the high court with the aim of having all of Lowe's statement made admissible. Her trial has been put on hold pending the appeal.
Lowe told police she'd been texting and was drunk because she was either traumatized or was trying to convince the trooper that she wasn't driving, Howaniec said Monday.
But he said the case against Lowe is weakened because cellphone records show that Lowe wasn't sending text messages. Although a text message was sent to her phone at the time of the accident, he said there's no proof that she looked at it.
Furthermore, Lowe had a blood alcohol level of 0.04, which further weakens the claim that she was drunk, he said. Maine has a zero-tolerance policy for alcohol consumption for drivers under age 21, but the legal limit for driving is 0.08 percent for those of age.
Oxford County Assistant District Attorney Richard Beauchesne told justices that Lowe's suppressed statements should be admissible.
Following the hearing, Beauchesne said his office is alleging that Lowe was criminally negligent because she had alcohol and trace amounts of marijuana in her system and there's evidence that suggests she was speeding and was reaching for her phone to read a text.
But if Lowe's statements to police about texting remain suppressed, prosecutors might revisit the charges, he said.
"We're going to be re-evaluating based on any order that the court gives," he said.
Debbie Sande, the mother of crash victim Logan Dam, said Lowe needs to take responsibility for the accident.
"She said she was texting, she said she killed Logan," Sande said outside the courthouse. "She needs to take responsibility for her actions so we can get on and heal."