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Felony Murder For Undocumented Drunk Driver

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In Virginia a judge has found Carlos Martinelly-Montano guilty of felony murder in connection with a car crash that killed a nun and injured two others in Prince William County in August of 2010.

It took less than a day for the judge to decide that Martinelly-Montano, an undocumented immigrant from Bolivia, was guilty, even as the death of Sister Denise Mosier raised questions for local leaders about the proper enforcement of federal immigration laws. Martinelly-Montano was convicted of drunken driving twice before, but was released from custody while awaiting deportation.

The trial began Monday morning with prosecutors telling the judge that Martinelly-Montano was drunk when he crossed the center line and hit the car Mosier was riding in head-on. He pleaded guilty to lesser charges, including manslaughter and maiming while drunk driving, but not guilty to felony murder. Defense attorneys requested a bench trial, where a decision is made by a judge without the aid of a jury.

Fatal drunk driving cases usually wind up as manslaughter charges, but in his ruling Monday afternoon, the judge said that driving under the influence has consequences that are foreseeable, and therefore he met the standard for murder.

Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chair Corey Stewart, who has been highly critical of the enforcement of immigration laws, said he was pleased that justice was served in the case.  But he says more work needs to be done to make sure the federal government is fulfilling its responsibilities and detaining dangerous individuals until deportation to prevent tragedies such as this one.

Prince William County sued the federal government earlier this year seeking information from Immigrations and Customs Enforcement on why Martinelly-Montano was released back into the community .

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