Skier’s negligent homicide conviction sticks
After years of legal wrangling, Hall – a California native who is now 23 – was convicted by an Eagle County jury in January 2001, of criminally negligent homicide for causing the death of Front Range resident Alan Cobb.
Hall, who has already served a 90-day sentence in the Eagle County jail, was found to be skiing out of control on Vail’s Lower Riva Ridge run when he slammed into Cobb, who died on the way to the hospital. It was the closing day of ski season.
“(Hall) argues that, because the nature of the risk he allegedly disregarded was in dispute, the jury should have been permitted to convict him of disregarding a risk of injury, but not of death,” the three-member Colorado Court of Appeals panel ruled Thursday. “We are not persuaded.”
Edwards lawyer Brett Heckman represented Hall. He said Hall filed the appeal because he wanted the felony conviction wiped from his record.
“His objective in filing the appeal was to see if the felony conviction could be eliminated from his record and specifically sought an opinion from the court whereby the jury would have been given a misdemeanor instruction,” Heckman said.
Before giving a case to the jury, a judge always instruct jurors that they may either convict a defendant of certain crimes or acquit the person. In Hall’s case, Judge David Lass instructed the jury they could find Hall not guilty or convict him of either reckless manslaughter, a more serious charge, or criminally negligent homicide.
Hall, however, felt the jury should have been given the option of convicting him of reckless endangerment, a less serious charge and a misdemeanor, Heckman said Friday.
The appeals court, however, agreed with Lass, Heckman said.
“The Court of Appeals generally ruled as did Judge Lass – that when a death occurs a jury may not be instructed on a lesser offense that does not include death as an element,” Heckman said.
Lass sentenced Hall to 90 days in jail and 240 hours of community service as well as banning him from skiing for three years. Hall’s sentence was immediately postponed, however, because he immediately appealed Lass’ decision.
But less than a month later, Hall decided to serve the 90-day jail sentence even though his appeal had not yet been heard. He entered the Eagle County jail on Feb. 27, 2001, and was released about two months later for good behavior. Jail officials said Hall was “a model prisoner.”
Cobb, a Denver woodworker who had two daughters from a previous marriage, died of a fractured skull and other serious injuries about an hour after Hall collided with him on Lower Riva Ridge.
The crash occurred late in the afternoon as Cobb and his fiancee, Christi Neville, were taking their last run of the day. Hall was skiing down from his post as a lift operator.
“I stand before you knowing that I’ve taken a human life, a life that was clearly very special,” a choked-up Hall said at his sentencing, Jan. 31, 2001. “I always wanted to apologize since the day it happened, but I was advised not to by my lawyer.”
Legally, the court could have shown Hall more leniency had he run over Cobb with car, Heckman said.
“In driving, “careless driving causing death’ is a misdemeanor, but there’s not an analogous charge for any activity other than driving,” Heckman said.
Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.