A two-week long trial of Oscar Lopez in Schenectady County Court ended yesterday when County Court Judge Matthew J. Sypniewski, sitting as the trier of fact after the defendant waived a jury trial, found him not guilty of depraved indifference murder but guilty of seven other charges, including three counts of Aggravated Vehicular Homicide for causing the death of Amanda Slaven on November 1, 2020, on Hamburg Street in the Town of Rotterdam. The verdict came after approximately three hours of summation from both sides. The defendant was represented by Attorney Adam Eggleston who argued among other things that the defendant was too impaired to form the mental states of recklessness and depraved indifference required for a murder conviction. Mr. Eggleston also argued that Mr. Lopez attempted to take evasive measures by activating his brakes and steering, albeit in a belated and futile effort, to avoid Ms. Slaven’s car, as it entered the intersection of Hamburg and Chism Street, indicating that he was not indifferent to others.
District Attorney Robert Carney argued among other things that the following facts showed that Mr. Lopez was both reckless and utterly indifferent to the welfare of other users of the road:
He was driving a truck with a motorcycle on board that combined weighed close to three tons;
He did so on a main artery in Rotterdam just after midnight on the day following Halloween where the speed limit is 35 mph;
He proceeded at speeds over 90 mph, increasing his speed from 93 mph to 94 mph at impact as shown by the collision data recorder in his truck;
He began moving into the oncoming lane 900 feet up the road in a steering maneuver that had nothing to do with Mr. Slaven’s car and was fully in the oncoming lane when he struck her car head on after she had turned left from Chism Street onto Hamburg Street;
The collision data recorder shows that the brakes were not activated until .5 tenths of a second before impact, explaining why his speed increased into impact;
He caused this accident while impaired by alcohol (measured once at .20 and a second time at .19) and high on marihuana and cocaine.
By his guilty verdicts, Judge Sypniewski did find that Mr. Lopez, caused the death of Amanda Slaven while engaged in reckless driving and impaired by alcohol and drugs. He also found that he did so with a blood alcohol content above the level of .18, having a previous conviction for DWI within ten years and while driving with a revoked license. Judge Sypniewski did not explain his verdict of not guilty for depraved murder, nor was he required to as he was rendering a verdict as a jury would do. Mr. Lopez faces a maximum sentence of 8 1/3 to 25 years on the three charges of Aggravated Vehicular Homicide which are class B non-violent felonies. Sentencing has been scheduled for May 31, 2022, at 10:30 a.m.
Assistant District Attorneys Nicolaus McDonald and Kimberly Waldin assisted District Attorney Carney with the prosecution. For further information, call DA Carney at 518-388-4364(o) or 518-708-3041 (c).