Miss. court declines to overturn dismissal of DUI fatality case

Published 1:15 am Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Mississippi Supreme Court has declined to overturn a judge’s order that dismissed charges against Ronald Zoerner, who had been accused of driving drunk when he struck and killed a pedestrian in 1994.

Marguerite Richardson, 48, was killed in September 1994 after being hit by a vehicle while walking along a Hancock County road.

Ronald Zoerner was charged with felony DUI causing death. He was convicted in 1996 and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

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The Supreme Court in 1998 threw out Zoerner’s conviction and ordered a new trial because defense attorneys were denied the opportunity to attack the honesty of a cellmate who testified that Zoerner admitted hitting Richardson. Zoerner had argued that he hit a mailbox the night Richardson was killed.

Zoerner had been free on an appeal bond.

No new trial was ever held even though the case appeared on Hancock County Circuit Court dockets in 2000 and 2004. According to court records, the case was not tried in 2000 because of scheduling conflicts. Other delays occurred in 2004.

In February 2005, Circuit Judge Jerry O. Terry granted a dismissal motion by Zoerner’s attorney on grounds Zoerner’s constitutional right to a speedy trial were denied.

Prosecutors filed an appeal with the Supreme Court seeking an order to bring Zoerner to trial. The Supreme Court on Thursday, without comment, upheld Terry’s decision.