LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A Louisville woman was compelled to incriminate herself after she ran over an 11-year-old boy, but her rights were not violated because other evidence suggesting her guilt was "more than extensive," the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.
The high court's decision came in the case of 33-year-old Angela Baumia, who was convicted in 2011 of hitting Dylan Geitgey with her car as she sped away from a party where she had been drinking a year earlier.
A jury found Baumia guilty of murder, first-degree wanton endangerment, criminal mischief and drunken driving in the June 26, 2010 death of Dylan Geitgey. Prosecutors say Geitgey was thrown 69 feet after being struck by Baumia's car.
Prosecutors say Baumia had a blood alcohol level of between .23 and .26 — roughly three times the legal limit — at the time of the collision. Police estimated that Baumia was driving between 32 and 45 mph when she hit Geitgey on the 25 mph street.
Multiple witnesses described Baumia as driving erratically at a high speed when she struck Geitgey.
Baumia declined to take a breathalyzer test at a hospital in the hours after the accident.
"My father told me not to talk to the ... police," Baumia told Officer Buddy Van Cleave.
Justice Will T. Scott concluded that, even though Baumia had not been informed of her legal rights before making the statement, the comment constituted an invocation of those rights.
"Although not an ideal statement, (Baumia's) chosen method of invoking her right to remain silent was effective, as the invocation of right is afforded liberal construction and does not require any specific combination of words to garner its protection," Scott wrote.
Van Cleave testified at trial that Baumia declined to speak and invoked her right to silence. Scott ruled that the trial court erred in allowing that testimony because it implies guilt, but also ruled that the mistake didn't affect the outcome.
"Given the evidence, it is clear beyond a reasonable doubt that the jury's verdict would have been the same in the absence of Van Cleave's testimony," Scott wrote for the court.
Justice Bill Cunningham agreed with the outcome of the case, but found that the trial judge, Jefferson Circuit Judge Brian Edwards, did not err in allowing Van Cleave to testify.
"It seems to have been introduced to show her state of intoxication, belligerence and mental state, rather than to show guilt by asserting her right to remain silent," Cunningham wrote.
Baumia is scheduled for release from prison in September 2030.
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