OCEAN CITY — A state appeals court has upheld the conviction of a Waldorf, Md. man sentenced in 2018 for striking and killing a pedestrian while under the influence of alcohol on Coastal Highway.
On May 17, 2017, Stanley Faison, now 54, of Waldorf, struck and killed 24-year-old J.R. Ednie with his vehicle as the victim attempted to cross Coastal Highway in the area of 45th Street. A jury found Faison guilty of homicide by motor vehicle while under the influence and he was sentenced in March 2018 to 10 years, all but six of which were suspended.
The 10-year sentence was essentially double what the statute allows for a first-time conviction because Faison had two prior out-of-state convictions. Faison was a subsequent offender, having been found guilty of DUI in North Carolina in 2011 and then again in Minnesota just 27 days before in the fatal incident during the spring cruising event in Ocean City in May 2017.
Faison filed an appeal with the Maryland Court of Special Appeals based on three assertions. Faison alleged the trial court erred by not allowing the full testimony of his defense accident reconstruction expert. He also asserted his defense counsel was ineffective at trial by not getting his expert’s full testimony in front of the jury.
Finally, he argued the enhanced 10-year sentence was illegal. In its opinion issued this week, the Court of Special Appeals ruled unfavorably on the first and third questions in Faison’s appeal and deferred an opinion on the effectiveness of counsel issue. At trial, it was unchallenged that Faison was under the influence at the time of the collision because a breath test following the crash returned a .12 reading. What was challenged, however, was Faison’s speed at the time of the collision.
“In light of these stipulations, the jury was tasked with determining whether the appellant was driving in a negligent manner,” the opinion reads. “Because none of the eyewitnesses were able to testify concerning the appellant’s speed at the time of the accident, the parties relied upon expert testimony to address the appellant’s speed as it related to the negligent driving element of the offense.”
The state relied on an expert in vehicle crash reconstruction, who examined various documented pieces of evidence to determine Faison’s speed at the time of the collision in a range of 59.9 mph to 52.7 mph. The speed limit in the area of Coastal Highway where the fatal collision occurred is and was 35 mph.
Faison’s defense called its own vehicle crash reconstruction expert, who testified a trial concerning various alleged consistencies in the state’s expert’s data collection and interpretation.
However, the trial court limited the defense’s expert’s testimony to information included in his written two-page report. The trial court did not allow Faison’s expert to stray from information included in his report because the state had only received the report just days before the trial began.
Faison asserted in his appeal the trial court abused its discretion in precluding his expert witness from testifying about matters related to his vehicle’s speed at the time of the collision. However, the Court of Special Appeals opinion released this week suggested the defense’s expert opinion hadn’t made any of his own determinations about Faison’s speed at the time of the collision, but rather sought to discredit the state’s expert witness.
“Here, the appellant initially provided the state a perfunctory list of the defense expert’s anticipated testimony, which did not provide any conclusions,” the opinion reads. “The state then contacted the defense’s expert to request a more detailed report, which the expert provided four days before trial.”
Faison’s appeal then attempted to assert the defense counsel was ineffective at trial because it failed to get its expert’s full testimony in front of the jury. However, the appeals court declined to rule on that assertion having already ruled unfavorably on Faison’s first question.
The appeal then challenged the legality of Faison’s enhanced sentence. State law allows for a maximum sentence of five years for homicide by motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. However, there is a provision that allows for an enhanced sentence of 10 years if the defendant has prior convictions for driving while under the influence of alcohol.
Faison argued in his appeal while he did have prior convictions in North Carolina and Minnesota, he did not kill or seriously injure anyone in those cases. However, the appeals court cited case law asserting the prior convictions alone were sufficient for the enhanced sentence in the fatal Ocean City crash in 2017.