Passion Lucas’ family questions Brevard State’s Attorney who dropped drunken manslaughter charge

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Sister of Passion Lucas, the 37-year-old mother fatally struck by a charity worker’s car in June, raises questions about the state’s attorney’s decision not to pursue an impaired manslaughter charge .

She and her attorney Jessica Travis are now focused on building a civil wrongful death lawsuit.

“I think the prosecutor was not sensitive to what we were dealing with. They took my sister, who was the victim, who was killed, and treated her like the criminal in this case,” said said Makita Lucas.

“The driver admitted she had been drinking. Make sense,” said Lucas, who took to social media last fall to demand accountability after what she called mistakes and opportunities. missed in the Cocoa Police Department’s investigation of the June 20, 2021, murder crash.

Passion Lucas

Prosecutors announced Wednesday that they will pursue a second-degree DUI case against Suzanna Norris, whose blood was tested at twice the legal limit of 0.08 for alcohol. But they would not pursue a manslaughter charge originally filed by Cocoa police.

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The ruling, based on a preliminary assessment by a crash reconstruction specialist, means Norris could serve less than six months in prison if found guilty by a jury.

The ruling also means that if the case goes to trial, a jury can hear details of the death, but cannot make a decision on criminal negligence in Lucas’ death.

Specialists, Srinivas Kadiyala and Elliot Stern of Florida Forensic Engineering in Tampa, noted there was no evidence that Norris’ Impala had braked. Instead, the crash was “unavoidable for the driver of the Impala” and “the pedestrian created the hazard by stepping into (the vehicle’s) lane,” the report said.

Lucas, who had gone to hospital earlier with a stomach ache, was returning to a rehabilitation center where she was housed before the accident.

The story that Lucas was walking on the roadway was started the morning of the crash by a Cocoa police officer, without evidence, Lucas family attorney Travis said.

Passion Lucas, with five of his six children.

Passion Lucas, with five of his six children.

“We’re getting a second opinion from another expert,” Travis said. “We are also considering filing a civil suit. Okay, now it’s a wrongful death lawsuit, but it could expand.”

A civil case could allow the family to seek financial compensation that would go to Passion Lucas’ six children.

“I’m disappointed in a system that seems to believe only one living, faulty person. (Norris) admitted to driving while intoxicated and downplayed her actions when speaking with police. Passion is the victim here. The DA’s office decided they couldn’t refute Norris’ story,” Travis said.

Latest move to spur protest

The controversial case came to the fore last fall after Makita Lucas became increasingly frustrated with the lack of an arrest in the DUI case.

This is the latest case involving a state attorney’s office’s decision to draw open protest from Brevard family members and activists in the past three years.

Those cases include State’s Attorney Phil Archer congratulating and exonerating prison staff following the death of combat veteran Gregory Lloyd Edwards in the custody of the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office in 2019, and the decision to prosecute. his widow Kathleen Edwards for manslaughter in June 2020 death by accidental drowning of her 18-month-old son.

“The decision to prosecute is always difficult, but the evidence in this case has overwhelmingly shown that this tragedy was entirely preventable,” Archer said at the time in deciding to charge Kathleen Edwards. Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump had filed civil lawsuits against the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office the previous month.

Protests took place on November 13, 2020 over the deaths of 16-year-old AJ Crooms and 18-year-old Sincere Pierce, both shot by a Brevard County deputy who fired into a moving car during a a traffic stop by mistake. Archer concluded the deputy was justified in his use of force, according to a statement released in April 2021.

On Wednesday, the state’s attorney’s office released a lengthy statement explaining why it wouldn’t pursue the manslaughter charge against Norris, who admitted to drinking and driving to Cocoa police before colliding with Lucas.

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“Unfortunately, these findings provide a direct and reasonable defense to any charges of negligent homicide,” said Todd Brown, spokesman for the Brevard County District Attorney’s Office. “Furthermore, there is no independent physical evidence or testimony to prove the offense of hit and run at trial. A defendant’s statements, however valid, cannot be the sole evidence of guilt for support a criminal prosecution.”

Frustration Building

Makita Lucas openly questioned why the case only caught the eye after hiring a lawyer.

Norris, who was not initially arrested, told officers she drank four beers in six hours while out with friends, according to reports. She was allowed to return home shortly after the accident. Norris, who founded Hidden Acres Rescue for Thoroughbreds, has hired top defense attorney Alan Landman.

Landman was in direct communication with the state’s attorney’s office, providing his own expert’s assessment that Passion Lucas was on the causeway.

“Norris is in no way sympathetic to the victim’s family and children,” he said.

“She understands all of that. Ms. Norris’ life is irreparably hurt and changed forever, as is the family, so I think this is a situation where it’s tragic on every level. But not every death is accompanied by a fault.

Frustrated by the pace of the investigation and the lack of arrests months after the crash, Makita Lucas took to social media in the fall and took her case to Cocoa’s police chief, Evander Necklace.

An erroneous DUI ticket incorrectly noting that there were no injuries in the accident filed by a Cocoa police officer came after Makita raised concerns with the mayor and chief.

The chief, who has publicly stated that he was unhappy with his agency’s handling of the matter, quickly had the ticket canceled and the officer placed under house arrest.

Investigators also admitted that while Norris’ attorney had access to the wrecked vehicle, his own agents didn’t even access the car’s computer until nearly seven months later, after Makita restrained Travis. as a lawyer.

Then in December, Cocoa investigators, with surveillance video showing Norris drinking alcohol, charged Norris with manslaughter with DUI, leaving the scene of an accident involving a DUI. She was allowed to go to prison.

“I have to give Chief Collier credit, he cares. He was the only one who did something about this case,” Makita Lucas said.

But further disappointment set in when she said she met with Assistant District Attorney Bill Respess about the case.

“He was unsympathetic. It was as if they had brought me to calm me down. They hadn’t even reviewed the case but kept saying that the state’s attorney’s office might not move forward with the case. Their decision was made. I just don’t believe I will get justice,” Makita Lucas said.

Travis filed a notice requesting that the Lucas family be considered victims in the case and granted the right to be kept informed of communications about the case.

Makita Lucas said that no matter what happens in the criminal case, she is focused on making sure what she says happened to her sister’s case doesn’t happen to anyone else.

“Whether we get the win or not, we have to make changes in this county,” Lucas said, adding that she plans to protest the prosecutor’s decision soon.

“It is not finished.”

JD Gallop is a criminal justice/Breaking News reporter at FLORIDA TODAY. Contact Gallop at 321-917-4641 or [email protected] Twitter: @JDGallop.

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This article originally appeared on Florida Today: Sister disappointed with decision not to pursue impaired driving manslaughter charge