A Canadian woman could receive a life sentence in prison for causing a deadly car crash after stopping to help baby ducks. In 2010, Emma Czornobaj parked her car in the left lane of a Montreal highway and got out to help the ducklings that were on the median. Her parked car caused a pileup that left a father and daughter dead.
Now 25, she has been convicted of two counts of criminal negligence causing death and is expected to be sentenced in August.
The jury was unanimous in convicting the 25-year-old on two counts of criminal negligence causing death, a charge that carries a maximum life sentence, and two counts of dangerous driving causing death, which comes with a maximum of 14 years in jail.
The Canadian Press reports Andre Roy, 50, who was traveling with his 16-year-old daughter, Jessie, on his Harley-Davidson, was driving an estimated 70 mph to 80 mph in a roughly 60 mph zone.
His wife was following behind them at a slower speed and avoided injury, and has said she doesn't blame Czornobaj for the deaths; her husband died in her arms, and her daughter, who was pinned beneath the Honda Civic, died later in a hospital.
The AP notes Czornobaj wiped away tears when the verdict was delivered to a packed courtroom; she was released until her pre-sentence hearing on Aug. 8.
Czornobaj had stopped her car in the left lane of a provincial highway after spotting roughly seven ducklings on the median, reports CTV. The self-professed animal lover told the court that she did not see the ducklings' mother anywhere and was trying to herd them, with the intention of taking them home.
The Montreal Gazette notes that the case is an unusual one, in that Czornobaj faces a life sentence though there was no criminal intent tied to her actions.
Today on America’s Newsroom, criminal defense attorney Keith Sullivan said that mental state will play a role in her sentencing.
“She clearly had no intention of killing the unfortunate individuals on the motorcycles,” Sullivan said. “They were speeding I think it was 20 miles over the speed limit, and they didn’t leave enough distance to be able to stop.”
He said that life in prison would be "inhumane" and added that when you criminalize “stupidity,” the person usually receives a lesser sentence, not a harsher one.
Former federal prosecutor Doug Burns said that although Czornobaj could face life imprisonment, she'll most likely end up with some type of probation. Burns also pointed out that the victims' relatives are not upset with Czornobaj.