Appellate court upholds Lannerd’s ruling to dismiss aggravated DUI charge against McBride

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Natasha McBride | Photo courtesy of Adams County Jail

QUINCY — The Fourth District Appellate Court upheld an April 1 ruling by Judge Amy Lannerd in which she dismissed a charge of aggravated driving under the influence by Natasha McBride of Quincy in an Aug. 14, 2020 crash that killed four people.

The appellate court’s ruling was filed Monday. 

McBride allegedly ran a traffic light at Fourth and Broadway while speeding and ran into a vehicle which led to the deaths of Jenniffer Hendricks, 54, of Rushville, and Dakota Corrick, 6, Archer Corrick, 4, and Ransom Corrick, 21 months. The Corrick boys were Hendricks’ grandchildren and lived in Kirksville, Mo.

The state charged McBride on Aug. 17, 2020, with four counts of reckless homicide, four counts of driving on a revoked license and four courts of leaving the scene of a personal injury accident. The state charged McBride on Aug. 20, 2020, in an indictment with those same offenses, plus four counts of first-degree murder.

McBride never posted bond and asserted an insanity defense. The case was continued numerous times before it was set for a trial in December 2021. 

The appellate court’s ruling noted that as the trial date approached, the state was not ready to try the case because its expert required additional information before rendering an opinion regarding defendant’s sanity. The court rescheduled the trial for February 2022, with a deadline of December 30, 2021, for completion of discovery. 

The state moved on Dec. 29, 2021 for an extension of the discovery deadline. Before the court heard that motion, the state charged McBride on Jan. 11 with aggravated DUI in a 17th count, alleging McBride operated her vehicle “while under the influence of tetrahydrocannabinol” and two or more people died in the collision. 

The court granted the state’s motion for an extension on Jan. 14.

The appellate court’s ruling said the defense contemplated retaining a second expert to counter the aggravated DUI charge and filing additional motions pertaining to that charge. A motion was made continue the February 2022 trial date, asking for the additional delay to be attributed to the State. In the motion, the defense asserted the 17th count was predicated on discovery that had been “in the possession of the state since at least Dec. 7, 2020, if not earlier.” The defense did not specify in the motion what that discovery was.

At a January 28 hearing on the defense motion for a continuance, defense counsel Todd Nelson said he believed the 17th count was based on a “lab result” received on Dec. 7, 2020. However, assistant state’s attorney Josh Jones said the Adams County State’s Attorney’s Office received “the actual lab result” on April 29, 2021. Jones also said the 17th count was based on unspecified evidence that came to light on and after Dec. 7, 2020, including information received as recently as “two weeks ago.” 

The state did not object to the defense motion for a continuance. The court set the matter on the April 2022 trial docket. 

Nelson then moved on March 15 to dismiss the 17th count on speedy-trial grounds. He claimed that count was subject to compulsory rejoinder — a rule requiring a prosecutor, in a single action, to bring all known charges against a defendant arising from a single criminal episode — with the original charges filed against McBride in August 2020. McBride had been in custody for more than 500 days by the time the state filed the 17th count.

In the motion to dismiss, Nelson referred to comments made by Mike Cirrincione and Amber Hastings, officers with the Quincy Police Department, about McBride showing signs of being under the influence. Cirrincione submitted a police report in which he wrote that McBride purportedly told him she smoked cannabis approximately five minutes before leaving her residence. When Cirrincione asked her if she was under the influence of cannabis while driving, McBride said yes.

Jones presented patient notes from Blessing Hospital dated Aug. 14, 2020, indicating McBride’s drug screen was negative. He also said the state’s attorney’s office received a report on April 29, 2021, from the University of Illinois-Chicago analytical forensic testing laboratory dated March 12, 2021, that showed elevated levels of tetrahydrocannabinol.

He argued that the 17th count was not subject to compulsory rejoinder with the August 2020 charges because the state was not aware at that time of evidence sufficient to give a reasonable chance to secure McBride’s conviction for aggravated DUI.

Lannerd granted the motion to dismiss the 17th count on April 1.

“The officers’ suspicions that defendant was under the influence of something were contemporaneously corroborated by defendant’s inculpatory statements to an officer,” the appellate court wrote in its ruling. “The state learned by April 29, 2021, at the latest, that one of defendant’s samples tested positive for THC. Nevertheless, the state did not charge defendant with aggravated DUI until Jan. 11 — one month before the scheduled trial.”

The appellate court said the state possessed strong evidence before the prosecution commenced that defendant drove under the influence of THC. 

“This evidence, which included the officers’ observations of defendant after the collision and defendant’s inculpatory statements, was sufficient to give the state a reasonable chance to secure a conviction,” the ruling said. “At the very least, the state knew of the possibility of an aggravated DUI charge at the commencement of the defendant’s prosecution. Obviously, the state may have wanted additional evidence of a positive drug test before it proceeded to trial on an aggravated DUI charge. The speedy-trial statute would have allowed the state to file the charge and then request additional time to complete testing.

“Because the state did not bring defendant to trial on the 17th count within the speedy-trial period, the trial court properly dismissed this count.”

Adams County State’s Attorney Gary Farha expressed disappointment in the ruling and is considering options, including a possible appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court.

Lannerd was assigned by the Illinois Supreme Court to become a justice of the Fourth District Appellate Court. Her investiture ceremony was on Monday.

McBride remains in the Adams County Jail on $5 million bond. A status hearing in her case is scheduled for Jan. 3.

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