Trial Date Set for Kramer in Homicide by Vehicle Case
By D.C. Koviack
Kenneth Kramer of Meshoppen will stand trial this October for felony homicide by vehicle, misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter, misdemeanor reckless endangerment and summary violations in a case that began in December of 2009. The jury trial is set to begin on October 17 according to Wyoming County Court records.
Kramer is charged with running down 13-year-old Michael Zacjakowski of Meshoppen on Dec. 12, 2009. Zacjakowski later died as a result of injuries sustained when Kramer’s truck hit the youth’s bicycle.
Zacjakowski and a friend, Tristan Vaow, were riding their bikes on the berm of Route 6 in Meshoppen Township at about 5:30 p.m. on the afternoon in question. At the preliminary hearing late in 2010, defense attorney Deborah Albert Heise made her case that what had taken place last December was a tragic, horrific accident, but not a crime. She said her client had not had the required mind-set for the incident to be a crime: i.e., that “mens rea” or “guilty mind” was not an element. She said Kramer had been surprised by the boy “suddenly appearing” in front of his vehicle.
Albert Heise cited six different cases in both the PA Supreme and Superior Courts, which had bearing on the case because they required an element of recklessness, which she said was absent in the Kramer case. “Vehicular homicide . . . specifically require(s) an element of recklessness,” Albert Heise said. “The defendant must not only choose to act in a reckless manner, but know the action is reckless and do it anyway. My client did not know there was someone riding a bicycle on the berm of the road. Therefore, he couldn’t have perceived his movement toward the berm as reckless or negligent.”
DA Jeff Mitchell maintained that Kramer’s actions on the night in question, in particular his moving toward the berm in preparation for a right hand turn and failing to see Zacjakowski on his bicycle on the berm were sufficient to uphold the recklessness and negligence requirement.
At the preliminary hearing last year, Judge Hovan said the prima facie case had been established by the prosecution because, “to pull onto it [the berm] was reckless,” Judge Hovan said. Kramer admitted in his written statement to police that he had edged onto the berm, over the fog line preparatory to making his turn.
Pre-trial motions have delayed the start of the trial. Several witnesses for both the defense and the prosecution are expected to testify.