Jim Porter: automobile wreck grounds for murder? | SierraSun.com

Jim Porter: automobile wreck grounds for murder?

Some people deserve to be behind bars. Meet Hal Lee Moore.

Moore was angry because he returned from his bachelor party in Mexico to find that someone had burglarized his apartment. He responded like any jerk would. He blamed his fiance for not being at the apartment to take care of his things and he got in his Nissan Pathfinder and drove as fast as he could through the streets of Pasadena.

Moore was clocked at 90 miles an hour as he straddled double yellow lines, blew through stop signs and red lights, until he finally crashed into a Toyota, killing the driver.

Did Moore get out of his Pathfinder to check on the victim? Of course not. He continued as fast as his smashed-up car could go until he was finally apprehended as he turned into his own driveway.

No remorse

When Moore got out of his car he wrestled with three officers who ultimately subdued him. When asked if he knew anyone was dead after the crash, Moore replied, and#8220;Yeah man. I cut them in half, dude. Itand#8217;s a wonder I survived.and#8221; When asked about leaving the scene after the accident, he replied, and#8220;Leaving the scene wasnand#8217;t really the problem and#8230; they were dead.and#8221; When asked where he was going after the accident, Moore said, and#8220;going to clean up, probably have a beer, sit down, sit at home and watch television.


Conviction and appeal

Moore was charged and convicted by a jury of vehicular manslaughter, leaving the scene of an accident, evading a police officer, reckless driving, resisting a police officer and second degree murder. He received a well-deserved sentence of 15 years to life.

Moore appealed, contending: (1) the murder conviction was wrong, and (2) the trial judge should not have admitted evidence of a prior DUI conviction. Remarkably, he was sober when he went on his rampage. Imagine how he behaves when he is drinking.


Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought. Malice is implied when it is done with an and#8220;abandoned and malignant heartand#8221; or when a defendant acts with a and#8220;wanton disregard of the high probability of death.and#8221; The defendant must have a subjective awareness of the risk. I.e., he himself was aware of the risks inherent in his behavior.

Moore claimed his bad behavior amounted to gross negligence and#8212; vehicular manslaughter and#8212; not second degree murder.


The California Court of Appeal had no problem upholding the juryand#8217;s conviction, finding Moore acted with and#8220;wanton disregard of the near certainty that someone would be killed.and#8221; Clearly he was subjectively aware of the risks he created.

The Court upheld the trial judgeand#8217;s decision allowing into evidence Mooreand#8217;s prior DUI conviction as it put him on notice of the consequences of driving with extreme recklessness.

Have a nice and#8220;lifeand#8221; Hal Lee Moore.

Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter Simon, with offices in Truckee, South Lake Tahoe, Incline Village and Reno. He is a mediator and was the Governor’s appointee to the Fair Political Practices Commission and McPherson Commission, both involving election law and the Political Reform Act. He may be reached at porter@portersimon.com or at the firmand#8217;s web site http://www.portersimon.com.

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