August 2011 Archives

Carefree Motorcycle Accident and Michael Jakscht

I have already written quite a bit on the Carefree motorcycle accident case, the one that recently resulted in a mistrial.  And while I have already written both about the criminal and DUI aspect and the motorcycle injury aspect of the case, I would to elaborate on a basic point: motorcycle injury cases are very different from car accident cases. 

Of course, that motorcycle and car cases are different from one another is obvious, and that point would hardly need clarification? So what exactly do I mean?  What I mean by it is that the victims of motorcycle accidents are treated very differently from the victims of car accidents. 

As I wrote before, I have the nagging suspicion that if Michael Jakscht had run into a car with four people dying as a result, instead of killing four motorcycle riders, the result of the criminal case would have been quite different. (see "Carefree Motorcycle Mistrial and the Michael Jakscht case")   

I can't help but think that if this case was a car accident instead of a motorcycle accident, the result may have been different. Certainly, as someone who rides a motorcycle myself and has represented motorcycle riders in accident injury cases, I am aware that many people- especially insurance companies- consider motorcycle accidents, even when the motorcycle rider is not at all at fault, the "cost of doing business" and that motorcycle riders have essentially assumed the risk of getting hurt. 

The fact is many people do not like or care for motorcycles and motorcycle riders.  Many people, in fact, assume that anyone who rides a motorcycle is asking for trouble and if they get hurt, well then that is the riders fault even if the rider did not improper.   

In other words, getting hurt even through the fault of another person is just the risk a motorcycle takes, and he should not complain when he does get hurt. That is why it is important for anyone who  is injured in a motorcycle accident that they make sure that any potential jury is screened very well.  

It would be very interesting to find out how carefully the Maricopa County Attorneys' Office screened the jury pool in the Michael Jakscht, and how much effort they put into humanizing the motorcycle victims during opening statements, direct examination, and closing arguments. 

Mistrial in the Michael Jakscht Carefree Motorcycle Death Case

In what turned out be a shocking result, a Maricopa County Superior Court jury could not reach a verdict in Michael Jakscht's case.  He is the truck driver who killed four motorcycle riders in Carefree. Jakscht, 47, was charged with four counts of manslaughter, five counts of aggravated assault and two counts of endangerment. 

Clyde Nachand, 67; Stephen Punch, 52; and Daniel Butler, 35, died at the scene. Dayle Veronica Downs-Totonchi, 47, died a day later.

According to a report in the Arizona Republic by Michael Kiefer

A truck driver for a sanitation company, Jakscht had just delivered a load of manure to a speedway racing track near Lake Pleasant about 1 p.m. and was looking for a place to eat on Carefree Highway.

He told police after the accident that he saw the motorcyclists, then looked away. And when he looked back, he said, he noticed the traffic light had changed but simply couldn't stop in time.

The reason for the mistrial, the jurors were deadlocked 9 to 3 in favor of acquittal, is that the Maricopa County Attorneys' Office did not prove that Mr. Jakscht was actually impaired while driving. And according to news stories, Mr. Jakscht actually passed all field sobriety tests police administered at the time of the accident. 

Because the case was a mistrial as a result of a jury deadlock, double jeopardy does not apply and the Maricopa County Attorneys' Office has the right to charge Mr. Jakscht with the exact same allegations again. 

According to the news stories and from what I could find at the Maricopa County Superior Court website, Mr. Jakscht was not charged with felony or aggravated DUI.  The important thing about a illegal drug DUI is that if someone has an illegal drug in their system, even if it does not impair his ability to drive, that driver is still guilty of a DUI

Arizona Motorcycle Tragedy: The Defendant Truck Driver, Michael Jakscht, Testifies

It is probably the biggest motorcycle injury case of the past decade: in March 2010, a truck driver crashes into a group of stopped motorcycles in North Phoenix and kills 4 motorcycle riders. The driver of the truck, Michael Jakscht, was charged with four counts of manslaughter. In that trial, Mr. Jakscht testified that (as reported by Eric English of ABC 15 Phoenix):

[T]he crash on a mechanical failure with the truck he was driving. "I'd say it was fine throughout the morning, then gradually it just pulled to the left," he said. Jakscht told the jury he conducted a full brake inspection prior to getting behind the wheel that day.

He said through the course of his morning drive, the truck's brakes seemed to fade before giving out. "When I put the brake on, it made a sound," he Jakscht said.

He described the chaos, panic, and growing crowd at the scene and he described his condition after the crash as confused and nervous. "I was in shock, I was numb," he testified.

While Mr. Jakscht passed the field sobriety tests at the scene, he voluntarily submitted to a chemical test, which revealed he had methamphetamine in his system.  With that in mind, Mr. Jakscht is fortunate in that the Maricopa County Attorney could have charged him with 4 counts of second degree murder.  My experience is that when someone is responsible for driving under the influence and that is the proximate cause of a fatality, then prosecutors routinely charge those deaths not as manslaughter, but as second degree murder. 

I think this tragedy demonstrates the need for motorcycle riders to stay in gear while sitting at an intersection.  Staying in gear while waiting for a traffic single is to designed to prevent accidents like this one because if the rider can hear or see an oncoming accident, he can then quickly accelerate and leave the path of the oncoming vehicle.  Of course, if the motorcycle is in neutral, the rider can still leave, but not as quickly. 

What is your favorite Motorcycle Movie?


Fighter pilots have Top Gun, wrestlers have Vision Quest, boxers have Rocky, and basketball players have Hoosiers. So what do motorcycle riders have? Which is the movie for motorcycle riders?  According to the New Zeland Herald, there is no single motorcycle movie that defines the genre.   

The movies they listed include, of course, Easy Rider, The Wild One, The World's Fastest Indian, Electra Ride in Blue, Girl on a Motorcycle, Viva Knievel, On Any Sunday, and finally, The Great Escape. 

Describing Easy Rider, the article mentioned "Although The Wild One brought motorcycles to the suburban masses it was Easy Rider that captured the essence of the open road - and all the 'stuff' around that." 

I cannot state which movie is the best motorcycle movie of all time for the simple reason that of all these movies listed, I have only seen The Great Escape.  For anyone who has not seen that movie, it is the one in which the great Steve McQueen escapes from a German POW camp and tries to ride his way to freedom.  He does so by trying to jump over Germany Army barricades blocking his entry into neutral Switzerland.  

That scene is probably the best moment of that great movie, and even though I have not seen the other movies, I would have a hard time believing any movie can top Steve McQueen riding his way to freedom. 

My second place would belong to the Marlon Brando movie The Wild One.  I have seen parts of that movie and I know enough of that movie to know the Brando in that movie was the great Brando, not the old and bored Brando we see in other movies. 

So you tell me, what is the greatest motorcycle movie of all time?