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Last updated on Friday, January 3, 2014
(BLOOMINGTON) - The Indiana Court of Appeals this week dismissed two of the three felony convictions against Winston Wood, of Bloomington, whose boat collided with another in 2010 resulting in the death of a Bedford woman and her grandson.
51-year-old Susan Collier and her grandson 8-year-old Gage Pruett, died in the accident. Collier's husband Rusty was seriously injured.
Judge James Kirsch determined that finding the then 21-year-old Wood guilty of three charges of leaving the scene of an accident was double jeopardy, punishing him three times for one crime.
One leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death convictions remains. But a second charge of the same and one for leaving the scene of an accident resulting in serious bodily injury were dismissed.
Wood will receive a $2,000 refund for fines levied for those two convictions.
Judge Kirsch ruled that Wood acted "reasonably" when he drove his boat away from the scene of the fatal collision because he believed it was damaged and taking on water and that Wood had no knowledge of Indiana statute or what was required of him in an emergency situation.
According to investigating officers, both drivers, Wood and Rusty Collier were at fault in the accident.
The majority opinion, written by Judge Melissa May and supported by Judge John Baker, says that while there was sufficient evidence to convict Wood, he only left the scene of the accident one time and thus he cannot be convicted of same crime more than once.
"Even though two people died and another was injured, Wood's act of leaving the scene of the boating accident can support only one conviction," May wrote. "Wood's three convictions ...subjected him to double jeopardy, as he was punished three times for an act he committed only once."
But May, too, raises issues with the law. "This prosecution has brought to light serious concerns about the statute that criminalizes Wood's behavior," she wrote. "This statute permits no consideration of what is reasonable in any given emergency situation."
Wood testified during his trial that he was overcome by panic the evening of June 28, 2010, after seeing Susan Collier's dead body floating in the water after the collision at Lake Monroe. He testified that not helping the victims and speeding away from the scene was wrong.
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