Details surrounding LaRoche's defense argument laid out in court
Details surrounding the defense’s argument in the forthcoming trial for Morgan LaRoche, who has been charged with criminal vehicular homicide for her involvement in a July 29 vehicle and pedestrian fatal crash, will center on arguing that alcohol intoxication, a prerequisite for the charges, did not directly contribute to the death of the victim.
LaRoche made her initial appearance via video conference from the Southwest Multi-County Correctional Center on July 30, before presiding Judge Dann Greenwood at the Southwest Judicial District Court in Dickinson.
In that hearing the state contended that LaRoche killed Aaron Schmidt, 22, of Mandan, when she struck him in her 2020 Chevrolet Equinox near the intersection of Broadway Street and First Avenue Southwest in Dickinson shortly after midnight on Thursday, July 29. They further contend that the death of Schmidt was directly attributed to LaRoche’s driving under the influence of alcohol in violation of North Dakota's DUI laws — a prerequisite for the charge.
The state was represented by Assistant State’s Attorney Jim Hope, who argued for bail in the matter to be set at $10,000 cash or surety, assignment to the 24/7 alcohol program and court imposed barred entry to any liquor establishment.
“The state is concerned with two things in this case... the seriousness of the offense, which as this court has noticed carries with it its own inherent risks of possible flight,” Hope said. “Secondly, and based on my own experience, when we have situations like this that involve a pretty traumatic series of events with a traumatic result sometimes it is better for the defendant to remain incarcerated for a short period of time for the dust to settle emotionally.”
LaRoche was represented by attorney Lynn Boughey of Mandan, who argued that the circumstances of the incident, as well as the facts surrounding his client’s life in Dickinson, preclude the necessity of a bond. Boughey outlined the facts of the case that he will use in defense of LaRoche, noting that the blood alcohol content test had not yet been provided to him as of the court appearance.
In a lengthy rebuttal to the issuance of a bond in the case, Boughey set the stage for his argument that the victim in this incident would have likely been struck by any driver, sober or intoxicated.
Boughey outlined the defense's facts, stating that Schmidt was dressed in black attire; was walking in the middle of a lane designated for motor vehicle traffic; at a time when the lunar phase provided dim celestial lighting; and in a part of town that features limited roadway lighting. The argument contends that when the accident occurred, any motorist would have likely struck Schmidt. The argument, if successful, could nullify the charge of homicide.
“The victim in this matter was actually one of their friends that was with the people in the car that night. He was on a walk home and left the bar and they didn’t know where he was. They were in the process of leaving and going back home while the victim was apparently in the middle of a block, in the middle of the lane of traffic, wearing black. My client was driving on her side of the road and in obedience of the speed limit,” Boughey argued. “Neither the driver nor the passenger saw anyone. There was a thump. They slowed down and turned around, investigated and determined that there was a person who was struck and took immediate steps to render assistance and call 911.”
Boughey added, “It is a terrible tragedy and the state alleges that she was drinking and over .08, but I don’t know if that is true yet in regards to her blood alcohol content. Had there not been anything relating to alcohol, this would have resulted in probably no charges at all. Indeed a terrible tragedy. Those are what the facts are going to show.”
In arguing against the bond, Boughey cited the circumstances of LaRoche’s life in Dickinson and asserted that his client should not be considered a flight risk — noting the attendance of members of LaRoche’s family, a work supervisor and fellow employees in the court.
“She has a huge amount of support, is active in this community and her flight risk is zero,” Boughey said. “And for those reasons, among others, we request a personal recognizance bond.”
Greenwood considered both arguments before issuing his ruling on bond.
“I appreciate that the defendant finds herself in difficult circumstances, but that is not unlike most of the situations we deal with. I have to give consideration to all the facts you mentioned, but the court does like to be somewhat consistent in its rulings on these types of cases and I do believe, notwithstanding all that you mentioned, that when you talk about Class A Felony and the possibility of 20 year jail sentence and $20,000 fine, there is in fact an inherent risk of flight,” Greenwood said. “The state’s willingness to allow for cash or surety bond is reasonable under the circumstances and in many cases the court wouldn’t even consider the surety bond. So I think it is appropriate in these circumstances to require that there be either a $10,000 cash or $10,000 surety bond and the court can be somewhat lenient.”
Greenwood issued his ruling that bond be set at $10,000 cash or $10,000 surety bond, assignment to the 24/7 alcohol program and barred entry to any liquor establishment.
LaRoche retained her right to a preliminary hearing, which was scheduled in the case for 2:30 p.m., Sept. 13, at the Southwest Judicial District Court in Dickinson before presiding Judge William A. Herauf — setting the stage for a potential jury trial.