Source: Montana Law Week
Michael Soule, 44, was charged with vehicular homicide while DUI following the death of his wife Jennifer, 37, in a crash on I-90 west of Bozeman 1/25/12. The State alleged that he was driving a pickup up to 103 mph with BAC .231 when he crashed into a guardrail, and that he had marijuana and cocaine in his system. He pled nolo in exchange for 10 years probation. Judge Salvagni rejected the agreement and he pled not guilty. Salvagni later dismissed the case after ruling that investigators failed to preserve key evidence including a hair consistent with Jennifer’s that was photographed near the driver’s door and recordings of witness interviews and DNA evidence from the driver’s side dash, which could have been used to rebut the State’s theory that he was driving and that Jennifer was ejected from the sunroof. He also ruled that the probable cause affidavit omitted that Jennifer’s and Soule’s DNA were both on the driver’s airbag but only Soule’s was on the passenger airbag, a hair consistent with Jennifer’s hair was on the driver’s door, no fingerprints were recovered from the keys or steering wheel that could have indicated who was driving, no witnesses could identify who was driving, neither Soule nor Jennifer was belted, and both were found outside the vehicle. He also concluded that troopers conducted warrantless searches & seizures in Soule’s hospital room the morning of the crash while he was unconscious and without permission from his family or hospital staff including obtaining health care information, removing his gown & sheet, examining his body, and taking photos of his injuries and personal items. While a urine screening at the hospital tested positive for marijuana & cocaine, a confirmation test was never done and his BAC was never tested for those drugs. The Crime Lab blood draw test indicated .07 BAC and the marijuana in his system was also below the legal limit for medical marijuana cardholders, which Soule was. Soule was represented by Al Avignone in the criminal case.
Soule sued the MHP, AG Fox, Gallatin Co. Atty. Lambert, former Gallatin Co. Chief Dep. Atty. Whipple, and Troopers Josh Brown, Glen Barcus, Josh Giddings, Patrick McCarthy, and Ace Meskimen alleging negligence, malicious prosecution, violation of constitutional rights, IIED, and NIED. The case settled for $100,000 by the Shea Law Firm.