Jury acquits man of vehicular manslaughter in death of UC Berkeley alumna

Holly Michna/Courtesy

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A jury acquitted a former San Francisco city employee of vehicular manslaughter Tuesday in a case regarding the death of a disabled Berkeley woman who was struck while crossing the street in her wheelchair.

Thu Phan, a UC Berkeley alumna and U.S. Department of Labor employee, was crossing Market Street in February 2016 when Department of Public Health employee James Harris crashed into her wheelchair while making a left turn from Seventh Street onto Market.

While Deputy Public Defender Dana Drusinsky acknowledged the tragedy of the incident, she said she agreed with the jury’s decision.

According to Drusinsky, Harris had a green light and did not have enough time to stop as Phan entered the street.

The issue was that he was already well into the intersection when she entered,” Drusinsky said.He just didn’t have enough time to stop. It was just this unavoidable thing where humans have human reaction rates.”

However, Phan’s sister, Holly Michna, said Phan’s family was disappointed with the jury’s decision.

“I think the whole family is just really sad and disappointed that that was what the jury decided,” Michna said. “I don’t think we got the closure that we wanted, but I think we’re just going to move forward because there is no point in dwelling in it.”

After the crash, the city improved signage at the intersection in an attempt to increase safety, according to SFGate. Despite the tragedy of the incident, Michna said she approves of the city’s efforts to reduce traffic accidents.

“You still hear stories of people getting killed all the time in San Francisco. I know they’re working on something called Vision Zero,” Michna said.

San Francisco adopted Vision Zero SF as the city’s road safety policy in 2014. Through the project, the city aims to eliminate traffic fatalities by 2024, according to the Vision Zero SF website.

“There is some progress being made and I don’t know how quickly it’s being done, but I think the city is really working towards certain goals and making a commitment towards Vision Zero,” Michna said.


Contact Jenny Weng at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @jennyweng1999.