Crime

Appeal denied in Centre County huffing murder conviction

Centre County President Judge Thomas King Kistler has denied a request for a new trial and acquittal of some charges for a Bellefonte woman convicted of killing a man while driving under the influence of inhalants.

Danielle Packer, 23, was accused of huffing “Dust-Off,” an aerosol, before a collision on Benner Pike that killed 25-year-old Matthew Snyder, also of Bellefonte, in August 2012.

She was convicted of third-degree murder, aggravated assault, homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence and other charges at a jury trial before Judge Bradley P. Lunsford last year. She was sentenced to 10-20 years in prison by President Judge Thomas King Kistler in January. Packer is serving the time at Muncy state prison.

Deborah Lux, Packer’s public defender, filed the post-sentence motion seeking a new trial in February. The crux of the argument was that prosecutors withheld evidence favorable to Packer, which they are required to provide, from Lux.

Lux argued that a pathologist prosecutors approached to be an expert witness at the trial, Dr. Harry Kamerow, described the level of intoxicants in Packer’s blood to be “woefully unimpressive” and not enough to imply impairment. Kamerow declined to be used as a witness, and Lux wrote in the filing that Kamerow’s statement could have been used to undermine the credibility of the toxicologist prosecutors used at the trial.

However, at a hearing before Kistler in April, the pathologist testified that Lux took those words out of context and the implication that he meant them as an opinion on the case was a “lie.”

Kistler opined in the denial that Kamerow’s statement was a remark about the quantity of evidence, not the quality of it, and because Kamerow did not prepare a report for the prosecution, there was no evidence to hand over.

Lux also asked Kistler to throw out the murder and aggravated assault by vehicle convictions because there was not sufficient evidence of malice to justify charging and convicting Packer with those offenses, and also claimed errors by Lunsford in jury instructions and allowing prosecutors to admit wedding photos of Snyder and his wife could have influenced the jury’s decisions against Packer.

Kistler rejected these arguments as well.

In a release, Parks Miller said she is “pleased yet unsurprised” at Kistler’s decision and was happy that the court recognized a murder conviction can be established in certain driving-related deaths.

Lux said she was disappointed with the opinion and believed that Kistler would have looked at and overturned the murder and aggravated assault charges. She will appeal to the state Superior Court for the same reasons mentioned in the post-sentence motion.

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