A man’s felony vehicular manslaughter conviction in the death of a 24-year-old Eagle woman has been vacated by the Idaho Supreme Court.
Adam Paulson, 46, was sentenced to 15 years in prison, with five years fixed, by 4th District Judge Deborah Bail after his jury trial in late 2018, but she suspended that sentence and placed him on supervised probation for 15 years. She also ordered him to spend 14 months in jail, but gave him credit for the 14 months he had served.
However, Bail revoked Paulson’s probation and imposed his underlying prison sentence in June 2019 after discovering that he had intentionally tampered with a SCRAM alcohol-monitoring device that he was required to wear as a part of his probation.
But in an opinion published Tuesday, the state’s highest court set aside the vehicular manslaughter conviction, prompting Bail to rescind her decision. Justices said the jury was not informed of key details involving the death of Madeline “Maddie” Duskey, who was fatally struck while walking across Eagle Road near Riverside Drive in November 2017.
Paulson was driving drunk on the night of Nov. 18, 2017, and was on his way home when his Chevrolet Silverado pickup struck and killed Duskey, prosecutors said at his trial, which lasted a week and ended with the jury convicting. Evidence presented during the trial showed that his blood alcohol content was 0.213% when a blood draw was done by a paramedic, after various breathalyzer tests showed it to be between 0.164 and 0.197, according to the Supreme Court ruling. The legal limit is 0.08.
Duskey’s autopsy found that she had a blood alcohol content of 0.238 and also had marijuana in her system. The forensic pathologist characterized her level of intoxication as “acute alcohol intoxication.” Blood alcohol content is generally considered fatal if it’s above 0.40.
Part of the Supreme Court’s decision, it said, was based on the argument the district court should have instructed the jury on “intervening” and “superseding” causes because the pedestrian, who was intoxicated, crossed the road in an unlit area with no marked crosswalk, and was wearing dark clothing.
The case and Paulson’s initial sentence garnered national attention and a statement from Mothers Against Drunk Driving National President Helen Witty, who in 2019 said that it “illustrates a failure in the Idaho judicial system.”
“The typical sentence for killing someone in an impaired driving crash is three to five years in prison,” Witty wrote. “Paulson’s extraordinary sentence is an injustice to the victim in the case and to the nearly 11,000 people a year killed by this violent, 100% preventable crime.”
The maximum penalties for felony vehicular manslaughter are 15 years in prison, a $15,000 fine or both. Prosecutors had asked for 15 years for Paulson, including five before he was eligible for parole.
After the Idaho Supreme Court ruling, the case is now remanded to 4th District Court.
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