New York State’s highest court has upheld the convictions of three drunken drivers—two from Long Island—who argued they were too drunk to commit the depraved indifference murders of four people.
The State Court of Appeals issued its ruling Thursday after hearing appeals this year from attorneys for Martin Heidgen, who caused a notorious crash that killed a limo driver and a flower girl in a wedding party, Franklin McPherson, who left one dead, and Taliyah Taylor, a fatal hit-and-run driver from Staten Island.
“The evidence in each of these unusually egregious cases was legally sufficient to support the convictions,” Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman wrote in the panel’s decision, in which two of the seven members wrote separate dissenting opinions.
Praising the verdict were lawmakers, prosecutors and advocates for the families of the victims claimed by those who caused crashes while driving while intoxicated.
“This is a monumental victory in our fight for safer roads,” said Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice. “Hopefully this ruling will give other prosecutors the legal confidence to push for murder convictions for the worst of the worst drunk drivers.”
Heidgen, 32, of Valley Stream, was one of the first DWI convicts in the state to also be convicted of murder after he sped the wrong way on the Meadowbrook Parkway in 2005 before crashing head-on into a limousine, killing driver Stanley Rabinowitz and 7-year-old passenger Katie Flynn.
A year later, Taylor, 31, sped the wrong way on Forest Avenue on Staten Island before she struck and killed pedestrian Larry Simon, then injured two people in a stopped car she later crashed into.
And in 2007, McPherson, 27, of Deer Park, sped the wrong way on the Southern State Parkway before crashing head-on into a vehicle, killing its driver, Leslie Burgess.
All three are serving time in upstate New York prisons. Heidgen will be eligible for parole in 2024, Taylor in 2029 and McPherson in 2032.