Killer driver's appeal rejected

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 December, 2011, 12:00am


A 24-year-old US student who accidentally killed a taxi driver during a drunken road altercation cannot appeal against his manslaughter conviction, three appeal court judges ruled yesterday.

They unanimously rejected all five grounds for appeal raised by Kelsey Mudd (pictured), including a claim that one juror did not speak or read English well enough to deliver a proper verdict. Mudd was jailed for four years and three months last year by the Court of First Instance.

The taxi driver, Wong Chi-ming, 58, was dragged along a road, entangled in a seat belt, and was crushed against a concrete road divider as he tried to wrest control of his vehicle from the drunk student in June 2009.

Mudd was convicted of manslaughter, taking a vehicle without authority, dangerous driving and driving while over the legal alcohol limit.

Yesterday the appeal judges - Mr Justice Michael Hartmann, Madam Justice Clare-Marie Beeson and Mr Justice Andrew Macrae - said Mudd was 'very drunk', his blood-alcohol level five times the legal limit, when he drove Wong's car.

Witnesses had testified that at about 3am on June 27, 2009, Wong was seen struggling with Mudd, trying to drag him from his car outside the City Hall car park in Edinburgh Place. When Mudd drove off, Wong ran alongside the car and grabbed the steering wheel through the open driver's door before falling and becoming entangled in a seat belt.

Dragging Wong, the taxi rammed through a metal railing dividing Connaught Road and collided with two other taxis before stopping.

When an ambulance and police arrived, Mudd drove off into oncoming traffic and crashed into another taxi. The latter incident was caught on film by a television crew.

Mudd's lawyers argued at the hearing that the jury's verdicts were unreliable and unsatisfactory because the expert evidence was flawed.

They also claimed that the judge failed to give proper direction and one of the jurors was unqualified because of his poor English.

The lawyers said the judge should have warned the jury that witnesses' estimates of how fast the taxi was travelling were 'given in a rapidly unfolding situation at night in the rain'.

Hartmann wrote in the judgment: 'As to the fact that the events happened at night and in the rain, these were fundamental background facts [brought] before the jury throughout the trial.

'A jury does not have to be repeatedly reminded of such matters. It demeans their collective intelligence and dilutes the impact of directions of importance.'

The appeal court ruled that it was too late for the defence to question the juror who, when his name was called during impanelment, told the trial judge that his English was 'not that good'.

Mudd, who also holds British and Australian citizenships, was studying environmental geography at California State University in Chico.