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San Francisco bicyclist to stand trial for vehicular manslaughter

March 7, 2013 7:28:34 PM PST
In what may be a one of the first cases of its kind, a Superior Court judge has ordered a bicyclist to stand trial felony vehicular manslaughter. San Francisco police say he struck and killed a pedestrian last year.

We normally think of vehicular manslaughter as involving a car, and that's what makes this case so unique; a landmark case is how one legal analyst describes it.

No comment from Chris Bucchere or his attorneys Thursday. They had been hoping to have the felony vehicular manslaughter charge reduced to a misdemeanor. Instead, the judge ordered a trial.

The 36-year-old Bucchere is accused of ramming his bicycle into a pedestrian at Castro and Market streets in San Francisco last March. The victim, 71-year-old Sutchi Hui, died a few days later.

During the preliminary hearing, witnesses testified that Bucchere was racing through red lights and stop signs. The defense argued the bicyclist had the right of way, but District Attorney George Gascon said Thursday there is clear evidence of gross negligence.

"His selfish motivation," Gascon said. "You know, his need for speed, and his behavior was completely horrible."

Golden Gate University law professor Peter Keane calls this a landmark case that now puts bicycles on par with cars.

"Probably if you looked at this case 20 years ago or even 10 years ago, it would have been unlikely that the prosecution would have been thinking in terms of manslaughter," Keane said. "But the whole aspect of bicycles, and the safety of bicycles in an urban environment, is so important now."

Bucchere cried before walking out of the courtroom. But bicyclist Joseph Buchanan says there should be consequences for what happened.

"The guy could have stopped, he could have not gone for the lights, he could have done a lot of things," Buchanan said. "Just sounds like he was trying to be a hotdog."

Fellow bicyclist Marcus Miller added, "I don't know, it's tough to say whether he should be charged with manslaughter or not. I can't say whether that's right or wrong."

We talked to the victim's niece off camera Thursday. She said the family is pleased to see this case proceed.

The incident happened one year ago this month.


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