Court denies arrest warrant in Westport pedestrian fatality
Updated 5:16 pm, Friday, July 22, 2011
A Weston driver who struck and killed a pedestrian crossing Post Road East will not face charges, Westport police said Friday -- triggering anger from the dead woman's family.
Following a six-month investigation, Westport police recently applied for an arrest warrant in Norwalk Superior Court that charged Debra Hazan, 48, of Weston, with negligent homicide with a motor vehicle. However, prosecutors' review of the warrant application, police said, found there was not enough evidence to support the charge.
Sharon Broecking, 62, of Westport, died after she was struck by Hazan's vehicle -- a 2009 Audi equipped with xenon-plus headlights -- last Dec. 21 about 7 p.m. as she crossed busy Post Road East in the pedestrian crosswalk at the intersection with Westfair Drive.
The arrest warrant was refused by the court after a review of accident scene photos and the dark clothing reportedly worn by Broecking determined there were "insufficient grounds to prove beyond a reasonable doubt" that Hazan had acted negligently in causing Broecking's death, police said.
Police said Friday no further charges will be filed in the case.
"The family is outraged by the decision of the prosecutor's office not to pursue this matter criminally," Matthew Hirsch, a lawyer for Broecking's family, said in a statement. "All of the independent evidence points to a finding that Ms. Hazan was criminally negligent."
The police finding "that Ms. Broecking was simply wearing dark clothes should not outweigh the multitude of other findings pointing to Ms. Hazan's responsibility, especially when Ms. Broecking was not only in the crosswalk but also using a flashlight as she was accustomed to doing," the lawyer's statement added.
Hirsch told the Westport News on Friday that Broecking's family plans to bring civil claims against Hazan.
The Westport Police Crash Investigation Team determined that excessive speed was not a factor in the crash, and that Broecking was "well-established within the crosswalk," according to Friday's statement. Investigators "felt that there was sufficient illumination in the area of the crosswalk and that all roadway markings were adequate for approaching traffic from all directions."
The investigation also reportedly determined that a driver on Post Road East "should have no difficulty perceiving and reacting to the conspicuity issues in the area."
Police also evaluated the lights on the Audi that Hazan was driving and apparently found no problems.
Perception and reaction distances were calculated on evidence found at the scene and incorporated into the warrant, police added.
The stretch of Post Road East where the accident took place was also evaluated, police said, and found to be "predominately commercial with additional ambient lighting." Police said they also examined the road and found it to be "generally flat and straight with a clear line of sight."
A search warrant was secured for Hazan's cell phone, but police said her phone records showed no incoming or outgoing phone calls, text messages, or any other use at the time of the incident.
The police statement on the court's decision on the arrest warrant indicates that the Westport crash investigation team's findings were reviewed by an independent police crash investigation team as part of quality-control efforts, and the physical evidence and accident scene were also re-evaluated.