How could road rage lead to a second degree murder charge?
A jury in Livingston County, Michigan has decided that a man who fatally shot another driver did not do so in self-defense. Martin Zale, 69, was found guilty of second degree murder. It is being called a tragic case of road rage.
According to the Detroit News, Derek Flemming, 43, was shot when he approached Zale’s car to confront him about aggressive driving. Amy Flemming, Derek’s wife, gave a recount to police what happened that day.
What Happened That Day
According to Amy Flemming, the couple were on their way to pick up their children from school after having lunch. Zale’s pickup was driving erratically in front of them. Derek Flemming got out of the vehicle at a stoplight and walked up to Zale’s truck.
Martin Zale’s story continues says that he shot Flemming because he was feeling threatened. He also said that Flemming reached into his truck and punched him. According to the Livingston Daily, Zale believe it was Flemmings’ road rage that lead to the confrontation. Many of the defense witnesses said Flemming was a man who liked to provoke arguments.
Zale said that he was defending himself. Zale testified that Flemming was “hitting” or “pounding” his truck and when Flemming hit him in the face, he was yelling that he was going to “kick his (expletive).”
The Livingston Daily reported that one of the prosecution witnesses said that he thought he saw puffiness and redness around Zale’s face that could have been cause by being punched.
Amy Flemming describes what happened next in a heart-breaking way. Amy testified at Zale’s preliminary hearing saying Derek “dropped to the ground like a marionette puppet having its strings cut.”
Why Not Self-Defense?
Why didn’t the jury believe that Zale’s self-defense story? While the jury was the only one who could decide that, here is what the prosecution told the jury:
- For one reason it has been reported that Zale had over 4,000 pounds of protection in his Dodge Ram.
- If Zale felt he was being threatened, he should never have rolled down his window. He should have just driven off.
Typically, with self-defense, the defendant must believe he is in imminent threat of being killed or of suffering great bodily harm. If possible, there the defendant retreats before taking action.
The prosecution brought forward many witnesses who testified to Zale’s reckless driving, being unapologetic for his actions, and one witness reported Zale punching him in the face after an alleged road-rage incident.
Second-degree murder could lead to a sentencing of up to life in prison. Martin Zale’s sentencing has been set for June 5.
This is truly a tragic story of road rage. The Detroit Free Press quoted the defense attorney saying,
“He (Zale upon hearing the verdict) was shocked,” Pearce said. “We highlighted the fact he did feel in fear of great bodily harm or death, but my guess is the jury weighed the credibility and they decided whose story they believed over another.”
It’s been reported that Zale will be appealing.
If you would like to learn more about filing an appeal in Michigan, please see, How to File an Appeal in Michigan.