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Long IslandCrime

Jurors weigh case of Hempstead woman who drove into bystanders

Shania Buchanan, seen June 9, 2016, is charged

Shania Buchanan, seen June 9, 2016, is charged with driving a vehicle into a crowd in Hempstead in April 2016, killing a woman, prosecutors say. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Jurors are considering whether a Hempstead motorist committed murder by driving into brawl bystanders in 2016, killing one person and injuring two others, or if her actions amounted to a tragic accident.

A Nassau County Court panel is scheduled to continue deliberations Tuesday in the case against Shania Buchanan, 24, after attorneys gave closing arguments Monday.

The Hempstead woman is on trial on charges of second-degree murder, along with multiple assault counts, reckless endangerment and reckless driving in connection with the April 20, 2016, crash.

Prosecutor Stefanie Palma told jurors Monday that Buchanan was angry when she wielded a Pathfinder as a “4,000-pound weapon,” fatally hitting Barbara Reid, 56, of Hempstead, as the woman and others watched a fight involving Buchanan’s mother on Linden Avenue in the village.

But defense attorney Jeffrey Groder countered in his closing argument that the police investigation was “biased and incomplete,” with a detective pinning guilt on Buchanan before examining all the evidence.

“The evidence supports the conclusion that this was an accident,” the Mineola lawyer said.

However, Palma argued that Buchanan was speeding at 60 mph to back up her mother in an ongoing feud, and “without a care or concern for the people ahead,” she “barged onto that fight scene with a vengeance.”

The prosecutor said Buchanan dragged Reid’s body down the road and left her lying against a curb with a broken neck, after first crashing the Pathfinder into pedestrian Betty Sanders and then bicyclist Jose Mena.

Sanders, then 45, was left with a broken femur, and Mena, then 59, with a fractured spine, according to authorities.

Buchanan’s race to her mother’s home began after she got a call from a sister saying their mother was losing a fight against a member of another family with whom there was “bad blood,” according to prosecutors.

Palma said video along Buchanan’s route showed her maneuvering through traffic “like Mario Andretti,” before zooming onto her mother’s street and failing to brake while the vehicle was a couple of houses away from Sanders.

Palma said the Pathfinder would have ended up somewhere else — not next to Buchanan’s mother’s house — if the motorist had “lost control.” The prosecutor added that while Buchanan told police the Pathfinder’s brakes were “really, really bad,” a test later showed they worked.

But Groder argued that if the Pathfinder came through the crowd at 60 mph without Buchanan trying to stop, it would have ended up much farther down the block. He said a test of the Pathfinder’s minimum stopping distance showed his client was hitting the brakes at least two houses away from people. He also argued that just because a prosecution expert found the vehicle safe didn’t mean it was free of problems.

The jury, which briefly deliberated Monday, is the second panel to be seated in the case after acting State Supreme Court Justice Francis Ricigliano recently declared a mistrial in the first proceeding, after problems involving the first jury and an evidence issue.

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