Friday 9 November 2018

MARCO MUZZO: a drunk driving killer                                            
On a clear fall day, six members of a family drove through York Region. Loving grandparents and a great-grandmother were taking three small children home to their parents, after an overnight visit in King City. It was a perfectly ordinary weekend event— the kind regularly engaged in by families in communities big and small all across the Province of Ontario, however in this sad case, what should have been a perfect 0rdinary event was rendered catastrophic because of Marco Muzzo’s decision to drink and then drive his vehicle while he was impaired.

More than thirty years ago, the Court of Appeal for Ontario declared that members of the public who travel the roadways of the province should not live in fear that they may meet with a driver whose faculties are impaired by alcohol.

 But, as this case so tragically illustrates, the message that every drinking driver is a potential killer of innocent members of the community continues to go unheeded.

In 2013, a total of 1,149 children 14 and younger were killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes. Of those 1,149 fatalities, 200 (17%) occurred in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes. Out of those 200 deaths, 121 (61%) were occupants of vehicles with drivers who had BACS of .08 or higher, and another 29 children (15%) were pedestrians or pedal-cyclists struck by drivers with BACS of .08 or higher.

In 2016, 9 percent of all drivers involved in fatal crashes during the day were drunk, compared to 30 percent at night. In addition, almost twice as many alcohol-related traffic fatalities occurred during the weekends compared to weekdays. Nothing has changed since Mr. Rizzo’s stupid decision to drive his vehicle while he was impaired.

Mr. Muzzo was driving while he was w impaired when he crashed into the family minivan in Kleinburg, Ontario on September,. 27,  2015. Daniel Neville-Lake, 9, his brother Harrison, 5, and their sister Milly, 2, were killed in the collision, as was their maternal grandfather, 65-year-old Gary Neville. Two others suffered serious injuries in the collision.

Kipling Avenue runs north to south with a single lane in each direction. The posted speed limit is 80 kilometres per hour. At the intersection of the two roads, there are stop signs for traffic travelling north and south on Kipling Avenue. There are no stop signs for traffic travelling on Kirby Road. Traffic on Kirby Road has the right of way.

As an aside, several years ago while I was driving my car with my wife accompanying me, I was driving on a country road and didn’t see the stop sign and drove right into an intersection resulting in my car being T-boned at 80 kilometres an hour. It took the fire department twenty minutes to free from me from my car. Soon after, an ambulance rushed me to the nearest hospital and hours later, I was released and our oldest daughter drove to the hospital and then drove my wife and me home. My wife wasn’t injured. I had a damaged leg. The next morning, I was in a state of shock. The ambulance took me to the nearest hospital and I was there for several days.

Fortunately I don’t drive while impaired. Subsequently, the police officer only charged me with failing to share the road—a minor traffic charge. Since that was my first accident where I was at fault, my insurance payments were the same as before the accident. It was about then that I decided that I didn’t want to drive a car any more. I had driven cars around much of Canada and much of the United States, in Italy, in Mexico and in Central America for over 50 years and at 84 years of age, I decided that I had enough  of driving cars. Now my wife drives us in her car. She is only 65 so she will be driving her car for quite a while.

Now back to Mr. Muzzo. The stop sign for northbound traffic on Kipling Avenue was visible and unobstructed. There were no weather or traffic conditions that would prevent Mr. Muzzo’s northbound vehicle from stopping safely at the intersection.

At 3:15 p.m. that day, Mr. Muzzo arrived at Toronto’s Pearson Airport on a private jet .He was returning from his bachelor party in Miami. After clearing Customs, he walked to his Jeep Grand Cherokee and left the parking area at 3:27 p.m. He was alone in his vehicle. He then began driving to his home in Vaughan Township.

Around 4:00 p.m. he was driving northbound on Kipling Avenue, approaching Kirby Road. At that time, 64 year old Neriza Neville was driving westbound on Kirby Road in her daughter’s new 2016 Dodge Grand Caravan. She had five passengers—Her mother, 91 year old Josefina Frias, who was in the front passenger seat. Behind them in the middle row were her grandsons, nine year old Daniel Neville-Lake and five year old Harrison Neville-Lake. Her 65 year old husband, Neville was in the back row with her her youngest grandchild, two year old Milagros Neville-Lake.

Ms. Neville slowed down as she approached the intersection with Kipling Avenue, even though she had the right of way.  As Mr. Muzzo approached the same intersection, he entered the intersection without stopping for the stop sign. He did so as Ms. Neville was slowly driving through the intersection.

It is ironic when you think about it. Had she not slowed down while approaching the intersection, she would have already been passed the intersection when Mr. Muzzo drove through the intersection. Her slowing down while approaching the intersection was legally the right thing to do. It is just unfortunate that while doing the right thing to do, innocent persons in her car died.

Mr. Muzzo’s Jeep struck the driver’s side of the Grand Caravan. The impact sent the Grand Caravan into the northwest corner of the intersection, where it came to rest in a ditch after striking the stop sign facing southbound traffic.

The Jeep rotated counter-clockwise and continued moving  northbound. Its rear end rotated into the southbound lane of Kipling Avenue on the other side of the intersection, where it      struck an almost stopped Mercedes on the front driver’s side. The occupants of the Mercedes were not injured.

Several members of the public who were travelling in other vehicles witnessed the collision.  They remained at the scene  until the police arrived.  One of the witnesses noticed that Mr. Muzzo had glossy eyes. She believed that he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

The first officer on scene spoke to Mr. Muzzo. He observed that Mr. Muzzo was unsteady on his feet, had glossy eyes, attempted to use people to keep his balance, and was having a difficult time comprehending directions. The officer also observed that Mr. Muzzo urinated himself, and that a smell of alcoholic beverage was emanating from his breath.

The officer cautioned Mr. Muzzo and then he admitted to being the driver of the Jeep. He was arrested at 4:30 p.m. for impaired driving causing bodily harm. A demand for samples of his breath was made. The machine showed that he was impaired. He was then arrested and taken to a police station.

Shortly after arriving at the station, the police learned of the deaths of Gary Neville and Daniel Neville-Lake. Mr. Muzzo was told that he was facing additional charges.

Mr. Muzzo spoke with his counsel of choice.  He then provided two breath samples to the breathalyzer.  The first was taken at 6:13 p.m which resulted in a reading of 192 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood. The second was taken at 6:34 p.m., resulting in a reading of 204 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood.

In Ontario and the rest of Canada, the maximum legal BAC for fully licensed drivers is 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood (0.08). Driving with BAC over 0.08 is a criminal offence.

Even small amounts of alcohol can impair driving ability. In Ontario and other jurisdictions, there are non-criminal penalties for having a BAC higher than 0.05. Consequences could include licensing suspensions, or having to take an alcohol education course.

Drinkers often perceive alcohol to be stimulating. This perception, which usually occurs at lower levels of alcohol intake, results from a depression of inhibitory control mechanisms in the brain. Alcohol, like other general anesthetics, is a primary and continuous depressant of the central nervous system. First it destroys the integrating control of the brain. Thought processes may be jumbled and disorganized; the drinker may become confused. In addition, motor functions may be disrupted.  The first mental processes to be affected are those that depend on training and experience. The finer grades of discrimination, memory, judgment, concentration and insight will be dulled, then lost.

The effect of a given amount of alcohol on a person is a function, among other things, of the rate at which the alcohol is consumed, the BAC achieved, the subject’s tolerance to alcohol, and the setting (e.g., party atmosphere versus a more sombre setting. This is based on the level of intoxication.

The degree of impairment is dose related. However, it is not identical or linear for all behaviors. It is clear that behavioral skills requiring cognitive functioning which will suffer the greatest impairment. Put another way, impairment of the cognitive functions begins at lower levels.  

It should be noted that individuals can be impaired by alcohol without displaying any outward signs. Impairment is not simply the appearance of gross physical symptoms but it is also a deterioration of judgment, attention, loss of fine co-ordination and control with a possible increase in reaction time and a diminishing of sensory perception.

Intoxication is an advanced state of impairment in which the gross physical symptoms of the effects of alcohol are apparent. The point at which “impairment” becomes “intoxication” is unique to the subject and depends on tolerance impairment and rising or falling BAC.

In my opinion, Mr. Muzzo’s BAC reading was lower when he was driving his jeep considering the accident occurred more than two hours before his first test at the police station was taken. However, the fact that he couldn’t control his bladder while on the scene and subsequently urinated is evidence that his body and mind was losing control while he was driving into the intersection.

Driving is a complex task involving the integration and coordination of many skills and abilities. It involves dynamic and continuous interaction between the driver and his or her vehicle and the environment. It requires swift and accurate transfer of data from the environment to the driver, the processing of information, decisions, if any, on how to respond and the translation of any decisions into physical action. It is obvious that Mr. Muzzo’s ability to drive his vehicle was deeply affected by the amount of alcohol in his body when he was driving his vehicle at the time of the accident. 

I speak as an authority on this subject having written two papers on this subject—one of them being required reading at the Anthropology program taught at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. The second one being published in newspapers in Canada and in a school book. I was also an investigator for ten years investigating traffic accidents as a reconstructionist and reporting my findings to insurance companies. I was also interviewed two times on the radio with respect to my opinions of accidents caused by impaired drivers.

Data files from the Airbag Control Modules from both the Grand Caravan and Mr.Muzzo’s Jeep were examined. The data files showed that at 5 seconds prior to impact, the Grand Caravan was travelling at 54 kilometres per hour with the brake on. During the next 5 seconds, the brake was off and at impact, the van was travelling at 47 kilometres per hour. The data files showed that Mr.Muzzo’s Jeep was travelling at an excessive rate of speed before the impact. At 3.7 seconds before impact, the brakes were being applied, and Mr. Muzzo’s Jeep’s speed was dropping significantly, but at impact it was still travelling at a speed of 85 kilometres per hour (a little over 62 miles an hour) which means that he was driving faster before he applied his brakes.  The speed limit on Kipling Avenue is only 50 kilometres an hour which is a little over 31 miles an hour.

Apparently, he likes driving fast on roads. On February, 9, 2012, Mr, Muzzo was charged with speeding, allegedly travelling 134 kilometres per hour in a 100-kilometre-per-hour zone on Highway 407 in Oshawa, Ont., at 10:46 a.m. He also paid another ticket for a speeding offence in August 2013 in Newmarket.

Gary Neville, Daniel Neville-Lake, Harrison Neville-Lake, and Milagros Neville-Lake all died on September 27 from injuries they sustained as a direct result of the collision.

Neriza Neville suffered injuries that  included  non-displaced fractures to her right lateral ribs, minimally displaced fractures to two left anterior ribs, a left knee hematoma, liver hematoma, right adrenal hematoma, and abrasions to her neck, chest and legs. She has ongoing neck and shoulder pain, fatigue, and suffers from anxiety.

Josefina Frias suffered fractures to her seventh cervical vertebrae, sternum, and right clavicle. She spent about two weeks in hospital, that was followed by five weeks in a residential rehabilitation centre. She continues to suffer from brain bleeding  from her brain bleeding. She has significant memory loss also.

The Victim Impact Information

Victim Impact Statements were provided by ten family members and friends. Those statements poignantly express that Mr. Muzzo’s actions that produced raged almost beyond any comprehension. The  lives of innocents were lost.  A life sentence has been inflicted on Neville-Lake, Neville, and Frias families. Happy, positive people have been robbed of their reasons for being.

To attempt to summarize the Victim Impact Statements would do an injustice to their authors. But reference to some brief passages opens a window to the magnitude of the loss suffered by the families as directed their statements they directly to Muzzo.

Neriza Neville lost not only all her grandchildren, but further,  she also lost l her husband. She wrote, “Now I have no more grandchildren to look forward to on the weekend. I have no one to grow old with anymore. You took everything from me.”

Edward Lake, who is described by a cousin as a committed, loving and hands-on father, of all the everyday activities with his children that he will miss, from getting them ready for school, to cleaning up their toys, to playing video games with them, to listening to them both laughing and arguing, to tucking them into be at night. But most importantly, “I will miss being a dad.”

Jennifer Neville-Lake, a woman who others say was born to be a mother, wrote of the silence and painful emptiness that now envelops their house. “I am listening in vain for my kids to call out my name and I don’t hear them. I don’t have anyone left to call me mom. Not one left. Where there was once joy in waking up together that no longer happens anymore.

Mr. Muzzo was 29 years old at his trial. He is the eldest of three   children. He grew up enjoying close relationships with his parents, siblings, and extended family members. He continued to have strong support from his mother, siblings, uncle, and other relatives, many of whom have maintained contact with him while he had been in custody.

Giving him support doesn’t mean that they condoned his crime.

The Sentence

Judge Fruest cited several mitigating factors, including Muzzo's decision to plead guilty at a very early stage of his trial, his lack of a previous criminal record, and the strong support shown by friends and family members, 92 of whom submitted letters of support on his behalf. Additionally, she said Muzzo showed no evidence of mental disturbance or alcohol abuse.

Mr. Muzzo was convicted in February 2016 to impaired driving causing the deaths of three children and their grandfather. He was sentenced to ten years in prison. This was the longest prison sentence in Canada given to a person who was found guilty of killing someone when driving while impaired

In Canada, anyone sentenced to prison can apply to the Parole Board for an early release after serving a third of his or her sentence. Mr. Muzzo made his application in 2018.

Marco Muzzo’s application for parole

The reason given for the refusal of his application for day parole or full parole by the parole board was that it held amid the emotional and powerful pleas of the children’s mother, Jennifer Neville-Lake, not to free him  — was that to this day Muzzo was unwilling to acknowledge the central role that his alcohol abuse played in the crash, and prior to that, in his life.

A panel with the Parole Board of Canada said that Marco Muzzo has not addressed his alcohol misuse, and it denied him both day parole and full parole. The Board members said to him, “We don’t question your remorse, It’s obvious that this is a very difficult thing for you to deal with.” Muzzo had told the parole hearing that he had been drinking until 3 a.m. during his bachelor party and then had up to four drinks on the flight back to Toronto, but still felt he could drive.

“I should have known better but I took a chance,” he said, wiping tears away at one point. “I felt fine but there was that slight grogginess.” He said he still vividly remembers the screams from the scene of the crash. It’s something I can’t forget.”

When asked if he had driven drunk before, Muzzo said he had driven after having some drinks in the past but had never done so while “wasted.”

His explanation didn’t convince the panel that he should be released from prison at this stage of his sentence. He can file an appeal or simply wait for another opportunity in the future to reapply when he has served two thirds of his sentence.

Quite frankly, I don’t think that serving ten years in prison for killing four members of a family as a direct result of driving while impaired is suffice.

Many years ago when I was investigating traffic accidents for insurance companies, I was asked by one of the insurance companies to interview a man who while he was drunk, smashed into another car and killed all six members of a family that were in the car. The man was re-applying for car insurance and they wanted me to interview him and give the insurance company my opinion as to whether or not the company should re-insure him.

When I went to his home, he was in the back of his home with four friends. They were drinking beer. He had four empty bottles in front of him and was drinking from his seventh bottle of beer.   When I asked him how he felt about the deaths of the six people (one was a small baby) in the car he rammed into, his reply was, “Fuck them. There were only Pakis.” (Pakistanis)

Needless to say, his request for car insurance was denied. That meant that he couldn’t drive again unless he got his insurance from a government insurance plan in which the minium yearly payment is eight thousand dollars for car insurance.

I imagine that Marco Miuzzo will be applying for car insurance from the government insurance plan for bad drivers that other insurance companies won’t insure. He can afford it but can society tolerate him driving again?  I for one am not too happy about that possibility. I think I speak for others in society also.

No comments: