Judge rules to suppress blood test in fatal crash case

BENNINGTON — A judge has ruled to suppress the blood test results for a Manchester woman charged with manslaughter and drunk driving after a fatal crash in Sunderland in April 2016, prompting an appeal from prosecutors.

Storm Sweeney, 45, has denied charges stemming from the crash that killed another driver. Jennie Noyes, of Manchester, was 74 when she died three weeks later from her injuries. Sweeney has been detained on an alleged probation violation since her arrest in April 2016.

Judge David A. Howard, in a decision late last month, ruled the results of an evidentiary blood test must be suppressed as evidence because Sweeney "was not properly informed of her rights" and the blood draw was involuntary.

Howard wrote in the Dec. 29 decision that it's required to find she submitted involuntary "as she was not given the proper information concerning taking or not taking such a test if involved in a serious accident with serious injury or death resulting when, in fact, she had been so involved. Indeed, she apparently was not told anything at all about her being in a situation involving a serious injury."

Defense attorney Susan Keane McManus, representing Sweeney, filed a motion in September to suppress the blood draw as evidence.

The state is appealing Howard's ruling. A status conference and motion hearing is scheduled in Vermont Superior Court Bennington criminal division on Tuesday.

A sedan driven by Sweeney crossed the center line of Route 7A and collided with a sedan driven by Noyes on April 1, 2016, according to a Vermont State Police affidavit. Troopers suspected Sweeney was driving under the influence. At the time of the crash, she had already been facing a felony third offense DUI charge: She had pleaded not guilty in March 2016 for an alleged offense from earlier that month.

A test of blood drawn from Sweeney showed she had a BAC of .117 after the Sunderland crash, according to court documents. The legal limit to drive in Vermont is .08.

Sweeney was charged with manslaughter after Noyes died at Albany Medical Center on April 26.

McManus argued the charges were based on evidence obtained without a warrant and after Sweeney agreed to submit to a warrantless blood draw. McManus argued Sweeney agreed to submit to a blood draw "only after being given legally incorrect information by the officer."

The blood draw "is crucial in establishing the fact that defendant was under the influence of alcohol when she crashed into the victim," Deputy State's Attorney Alexander Burke wrote in a Jan. 4 interlocutory appeal. "Having the blood draw suppressed does seriously impede the prosecution of defendant for her crimes."

Sweeney has pleaded not guilty to felony counts of manslaughter, gross negligent vehicle operation with a fatality, and driving under the influence of alcohol with a fatality, and misdemeanor counts of driving with a license suspended for DUI and violating release conditions.

Ed Damon can be reached at edamon@benningtonbanner.com, at @edamon_banner on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 111.


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