Charge in Knox fatal driving case tests law

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – An Oak Ridge man is the first person in Tennessee since 1989 to be charged with second-degree murder related to causing a death while driving.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports ( 26-year-old Ralpheal Coffey is accused of killing two people while driving a vehicle carrying drugs and fleeing from law enforcement in May 2016.

A Knox County grand jury has charged Coffey with second-degree murder. The law defines second-degree murder as a “knowing” killing, meaning the suspect knew his actions could kill.

Prosecutors argue Coffey knew the odds were high he could kill someone by driving recklessly at high speeds, as he’s alleged to have done.

Defense attorneys say motorists whose driving causes a death isn’t a killer in the traditional sense, so vehicular homicide is the only appropriate charge.