ANN ARBOR, MI – A man convicted for crashing into a fire truck on I-94 while texting and driving, seriously injuring his daughter and killing her friend in 2017 has lost his first appeal.
The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed Thursday, Jan. 14, the conviction of Charles Edward Horn who was found guilty on two felony charges associated with the fatal crash.
Horn, 37, was convictedby a jury June 12, 2019 on one count each of reckless driving causing death and reckless driving causing serious impairment in the crash that killed Lincoln High School student Christina Snyder.
Washtenaw County Trial Judge Darlene O’Brien later sentenced Horn to serve 10 to 30 years and eight to 25 years in prison for his crimes, respectively. His sentence was enhanced for being a habitual offender.
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In his appeal, Horn argued the evidence presented at trial was not enough for a reasonable jury to convict and that there was juror bias that went unchallenged by his attorney.
The court disagreed on both arguments.
The court ruled that, although the evidence at trial was circumstantial, it is not the role of the appellate court to “interfere with the trier of fact’s role of determining the weight of the evidence or the credibility of witnesses,” according the court’s ruling.
“Viewing the evidence in this case in a light most favorable to the prosecutor, there was sufficient evidence to allow a rational jury to find defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt on both counts,” the court wrote.
Horn argued six jurors were biased on account of having been in car accidents or having had close friends or relatives die in car accidents. He also argued that one juror “made statements about being unsure about his impartiality.”
The court found no merit in either argument.
Horn and his daughter, then 15, were taking Snyder home after attending “Sumpter Fest” on Memorial Day, May 29, 2017, when he crashed into an Ypsilanti Fire Department truck at the scene of an earlier crash on westbound I-94 near Grove Street.
He and his daughter were critically injured in the crash and are still suffering lingering effects of their injuries. Snyder died at the hospital shortly after the crash.
Prosecutors argued throughout the trial that Horn was not paying attention to the roadway and the crash would not have happened had he kept his eyes on what was in front of him.
The firetruck, which was responding to a rollover crash, was on the freeway for 20 minutes before Horn crashed into it.
Evidence collected in the investigation showed Horn was texting his daughter’s ex-boyfriend before the crash.
At 11:01 p.m., 34 seconds before the crash, Horn sent a text to his daughter’s ex-boyfriend that read, “but I’ll be hanging out at red rooster in 15 min if U feel like U need to talk.”
The ex-boyfriend testified during the trial that he and Horn had been arguing through text messages for days, and Horn told him to stay away from his daughter. He believed Horn’s last text was a threat to fight him.
Horn previously attempted to sue the city of Ypsilanti, alleging the truck’s lights were off while it blocked a lane for a separate crash when he struck it. Officials disputed the claim that the lights were off, and the case was dismissed without prejudice in August 2018.
Additionally, Horn was on parole for armed robbery at the time of the crash. State mandates require Horn’s sentence not to begin until he has finished his armed robbery sentence.
Horn can appeal the decision with the Michigan Supreme Court. He will be eligible for parole again in 2029.
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