The burden is upon the State to prove the corpus delicti: to show that the defendants' alleged unlawful acts were the proximate cause of the purported victim's death. Brown v. State, 152 Ga. App. 273 (1979). In other words to sustain a verdict of guilty for vehicular homicide and first-degree or second-degree, the evidence must authorize the jury to conclude that defendant's action caused the death of the victim Williams v. State 165 Ga. App. 831 (1983). An interesting causation issue was resolved against the defendant in Pitts v. State 253 Ga. App. 373(2002).The Court again noted that in order to be convicted of vehicular homicide the conduct of the defendant must then cause the death. Yet an officer pursued the defendant to initiate traffic stop. Instead of stopping, the defendant attempted to elude the officer. After a one minute and 49 second chase the officer attempted to stop the vehicle using the pursued intervention technique by pulling up alongside defendant's vehicle and striking the vehicle on the right rear quarter to spin the vehicle out of control. However, the vehicle flipped and wrecked. Unbeknownst to the officer, the defendant 8-week-old daughter was a passenger in the truck later died from her injuries after the wreck. In addressing the causation issue, the court noted that the State was required to prove the causation issue by showing that the defendant's conduct was the proximate cause as well as the cause in fact of the death. The court held that the evidence was sufficient for a rational trier of fact to find beyond a reasonable doubt the defendant's actions have alluded officer at high speed in a reckless manner with the baby in his truck played a substantial part in bringing about the child death and the death was a reasonably probable consequence of the defendant's actions. In so holding, the court virtually ignored the fact that it was the officer who intentionally caused the collision by attempting to stop the vehicle using the pursuit intervention technique. In Stevens v. State, 127 Ga. App. 416, 193 S.E.2d 870 (1972) where car left the roadway after tire had blown out and the driver appeared to be the only person at the same Court of Appeals held the jury can consider strong circumstantial evidence that there was a corpus delicti. To determine what caused the death of the victim consider whether1) the injury itself was the sole proximate cause of death 2) the injury directly and materially contributed to the happening of a subsequent accruing immediate cause of the death 3) the injury material accelerated the death, although proximately occasioned by a pre-existing cause. Brown v. State 152 Ga. App. 273 (1979). Wilson v. State 190 Ga. 824 (1940).
Where there is no testimony except that of witnesses who testified that they do not know how the deceased met her death, the evidence is sufficient to sustain the conviction, since it may be presumed that death resulted from natural causes. Brown v. State 152 Ga. App. 273 (1979). Hence, the State has the burden of proving through the coroner or medical examiner, how the death occurred.
However, in Wimbush v. State, 185 Ga. App. 76, 363 S.E.2d 347 (1987), the Court of Appeals held that the mere fact that there was no specific testimony that the extensive injuries suffered in the collision were the proximate cause of the victim's death, would not prevent the jury, after hearing a description of the wound which had been inflicted, from determining for themselves whether or not the wound was the cause of death. And if the jury decided that the wound was a cause sufficient to produce death and no other cause was shown to exist there was a sufficient basis for the conclusion that the death resulted from the wound rather than from some other cause. In State v. Mink, 220 Ga. App. 651, the defendant was charged with vehicular homicide in second-degree pursuant to OCGA 40-6-393B. Count one charged defendant with vehicular homicide due to failure to yield to right-of-way as required by OCGA 40-6-21 and 40-6-1. Count 2 charged defendant with vehicular homicide due to the failure to yield the right-of-way as required by OCGA 40-6-71 and 40-6-1. The 3 charged defendant with failure to yield the right-of-way as required by OCGA 40-6-2180 1A and 40-6-1. 5 charged the defendant with failure to yield the right-of-way as required by OCGA 40-6-71 and 40-6-1. The trial court struck counts 1,3,4 because they allege violations of OCGA 40-621 and 40-6-1. OCGA 40-6-21 defines the meaning given to highway traffic signal indications but does not define any violation of law. In addition of OCGA 40-6-1 does not set out any specific violation, but rather states that unless otherwise provided for, it was a misdemeanor to violate any provision of the chapter. Since neither charge sets out a violation of law, they cannot be the sole basis for charge of vehicular homicide. The Court of Appeals affirmed. Contact a Paulding county lawyer today for a free consultation.