- The Washington Times - Monday, April 16, 2007

CENTENNIAL, Colo. — Jason Reynolds never planned his victims’ deaths, never saw their faces, never even knew their names before they died.

But Reynolds was sentenced yesterday to two life terms without parole in a precedent-setting case that saw him convicted of first-degree murder resulting from a lethal case of road rage.

Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour yesterday lambasted Reynolds, a 34-year-old gravel-pit worker, for his “universal malice” and said he doubted he could ever be rehabilitated.

Phil Cherner, Reynolds’ attorney, vowed to appeal the verdict. Other defense attorneys have expressed shock over prosecutors’ decision to push for first-degree murder when vehicular homicide is the norm in such cases. Prison terms in Colorado for vehicular homicide are typically around 10 to 15 years.

“This is almost unheard of,” said Larry Pozner, former president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. “First-degree murder is a completely different crime. It’s always been applied to those people who set out to kill someone.”

But Arapahoe County District Attorney Carol Chambers argued that Reynolds’ actions justified first-degree murder charges under the state’s “extreme indifference” homicide law. Examples of such behavior might include firing a gun into a crowd or driving onto a sidewalk.

Reynolds had a long history of aggressive driving before Nov. 8, 2005, the day prosecutors say his anger spun out of control. He was driving his Jeep Wrangler on the E-470 tollway when he became impatient with the car in front of him.

Reynolds flashed his headlights and tailgated the Toyota 4Runner, which was driven by 50-year-old Kelvin Norman, a youth soccer coach heading home for his daughter’s birthday. Finally, Reynolds cut in front of Mr. Norman and slammed on his brakes, forcing Norman to swerve to avoid him. The Toyota 4Runner lost control, rolling across the median and landing on top of another vehicle.

Mr. Norman and the driver of the other car, 35-year-old Greg Boss, a U.S. Postal Service special agent, were killed instantly.

The defense argued that Reynolds had accidentally hit the brakes while trying to shift gears, and that Mr. Norman had tried to ram his Jeep. But a tow-truck driver at the scene testified that Reynolds appeared “stone cold” after the accident.

According to Joseph Wentz’s court testimony, Reynolds said, “I hope it doesn’t sound mean, but the gentlemen got what he deserved and what he had coming.”

Other drivers said Reynolds was weaving through traffic and tailgating other cars at speeds of 85 to 90 miles per hour. Minutes before the fatal crash, they said, he nearly caused an accident by pulling in front of another car and hitting his brakes.

What may have proved decisive in the verdict were his prior offenses. In 2005 alone, Reynolds had racked up four reckless-driving citations, including an episode in which he slammed on the brakes after cutting in front of another vehicle.

But Mr. Pozner said the offense doesn’t rise to the level of first-degree murder.

“You can get very angry at road rage, but prosecutors and juries are supposed to stay above the emotion,” he said.

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