Thirty-four-year-old New Jersey State Trooper Robert Higbee lay onhis back in an Atlantic City Hospital room. His 6’8” frame hardlyfit into the bed. Just hours before at 10:00 p.m., Higbee sustained a concussion when the patrol car in which he was “closing the gap” on aspeeder, collided with a van crossing through an intersection ahead ofhim. Tragically, the two teenage sisters in the van died at the scene. The next morning, I received a phone call from the State TroopersFraternal Association of New Jersey (STFA), the organizationthat represents the state’s law enforcement officers. I was already ontheir approved attorney’s list and had previously answered “criticalincident matters” on their behalf. I was now being asked to representTrooper Higbee regarding any repercussions related to the accident. Within an hour I was at the hospital. Higbee was still in a daze.I had no idea at that moment I met him, how closely our lives wouldbecome connected. Five months later, a Cape May County grand jury indictedTrooper Higbee on the charge of vehicular homicide, a crime thatcarries a penalty of up to twenty years in prison. My job was to establishconclusively that Higbee had acted neither intentionally norrecklessly, only that he had made a tragic mistake in the dark ofnight, at a poorly marked intersection in rural Cape May County,New Jersey. The heaviest burden that can be placed upon a defense attorneyis in knowing that the fate of an innocent person rests in your hands.The following two-and-a-half years would prove to be the most demanding and excruciating I have ever experienced in my career asa criminal trial lawyer.
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