No verdict in triple-fatal I-85 crash trial; Deliberations to continue Monday

HILLSBORUGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The second day of deliberations ended without a verdict in the trial of a former UNC student charged in a drunken wrong-way Interstate 85 crash in 2015.

Click to see the photos
Click to see the photos

The jury will resume deliberations Monday.

Chandler Kania already pleaded guilty to a number of charges stemming from the crash, but has taken three counts of second-degree murder and reckless driving to trial.

Kania, who was 20 at the time, spent the night leading up to the July 19, 2015 crash drinking heavily before being involved in an argument over a girl, according to testimony. Kania drove his Jeep the wrong way on I-85 in Orange County, hitting a Suzuki sedan head-on.

Felecia Harris, 49, of Charlotte, Darlene McGee, 46, of Charlotte, and 6-year-old Jahnice Beard of Brooklyn, New York were killed in the collision. A 9-year-old girl survived the crash.

The three victims were headed to Charlotte after traveling to Virginia for a family reunion.

The jury has three options: It can find Kania guilty of second-degree murder, guilty of involuntary manslaughter or not guilty.

The jury deliberated for roughly three hours Thursday.

On Friday, they asked for a flip board, post-it notes, photos of skid marks after crash, and text messages.

Prosecutors must prove to jurors Kania acted with malice in order to convict him of the second-degree murder charges.

During closing arguments, defense attorneys worked to remind the jury Kania’s actions did not hold any malice.

“The world will not be made better if you find Chandler guilty of second-degree murder,” said defense attorney Wade Smith.

Smith said Kania’s actions were “stupid and dumb” but they were not “wicked and evil.”

The Orange County District Attorney’s Office has used evidence such as audio and video in moments after the crash to prove malice.

Prosecutors called around 30 witnesses while the defense called none.

“This is not a drunk driving case. This is a drunk driving while angry case and a drunk driving while selfish case,” said assistant district attorney Jeff Nieman.

On Oct. 3, Kania pleaded guilty to:

  • Three counts of felony death by motor vehicle
  • Felony charge of causing serious injury
  • Felony driving while impaired
  • Having on open container of alcohol
  • Driving after consuming alcohol while under age 21
  • Consuming alcohol under age 21
  • Two counts of using a false driver’s license
  • Driving the wrong way on a dual-lane highway

Proescutors said the guilty plea was not part of any deal made by Kania and his attorneys.

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