Text messages used to convict teen driver of manslaughter
Once again we read about text messaging catching up with someone who didn’t think about consequences. In this case, the messages were sent moments before a fatal traffic accident.
In 2011, 19 year-old Roberto Salamanca of Flagstaff, Arizona was driving drunk at speeds greater than 80 miles per hour. He was upset after a fight with his girlfriend. He sent two angry and profane text messages to her within minutes of crashing his car.
Salamanca weaved in and out of traffic, lost control of his car and crossed over four lanes crashing head-on into another car. The 20-year old driver of the second car died at a local hospital soon after the accident. He was a college student, ironically studying criminal justice. Salamanca fled the scene but when caught registered a .19 blood alcohol content, more than twice the legal limit.
He was indicted for second degree murder and related charges. He was found guilty by a jury of manslaughter and sentenced to 22 1/2 years in prison. On appeal, Salamanca challenged the admission of the two text messages. The first was sent two minutes before the crash and the second was sent 59 seconds before the crash.
In October, 2013 the Arizona Court of Appeals upheld the conviction and sentence including the admission of the texts as “intrinsic” to the charges against Salamanca. The court wrote in its opinion that “The jury could have concluded that the act of sending the text or handling his cell phone caused Salamanca to lose control of his vehicle.” Regarding the jury seeing his profanities in the messages, the court said “The profanity tended to show that Salamanca was angry as he was driving just before the collision and that this anger caused him to drive recklessly.”