Drunk driver causes deadly crash while awaiting trial for another fatal wreck: Prosecutor

A Michigan man who was awaiting trial for a fatal crash was reportedly drunk when he caused another wreck that killed his friend.

The Lansing State Journal reported that a judge ruled there’s enough evidence for Cody Hawk-Berning, 23, to stand trial for the January 2017 death of James Conaty, 22. Hawk-Berning was driving a van when he allegedly struck a tree, killing the passenger.

Hawk-Berning allegedly left the scene and returned with his girlfriend. Testimony revealed that the girlfriend initially tried to claim she was the one driving when the van crashed, according to the Journal.

The girlfriend was originally charged as an accessory but pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and agreed to testify at both of Hawk-Berning’s trials.

A blood test taken after the crash supposedly showed Hawk-Berning had an alcohol level of .08, well below the legal limit. However, an expert reportedly testified that a “retrograde extrapolation” suggested that his alcohol level was twice the legal limit when he drove into a tree.

At the time, Hawk-Berning was facing reckless driving charges for the June 2016 death of Kraig Hunter, 23. The Journal wrote that the pair were driving dirt bikes when they crashed.

Hawk-Berning is still waiting to stand trial for the 2016 incident. Defense attorneys stressed that Hawk-Berning didn’t have alcohol in his system when the first crash occurred.

In connection with Conaty’s death, the 23-year-old is charged with second-degree murder, operating while intoxicated causing death, reckless driving causing death, and failing to stop at the scene of a crash.

Authorities accused him of knowingly creating a dangerous situation by driving at accelerated speeds while intoxicated.

“He could have avoided this by not going out,” District Court Judge Donald Allen said.


[Featured Image: Cody Hawk-Berning/Ingham County Sheriff’s Office]