Drunk driver receives 18 months for deadly crash

Medford, Ore.- A Jackson County man has entered conditionally guilty pleas to criminally negligent homicide and DUII after a deadly crash in Sept., 2015.

Matthew Donald Harris entered the pleas Thursday. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison, followed by three years of post-prison supervision.

Police say Harris and a passenger left the Whiskey River Cafe & Lounge in Central Point just after 1 a.m. on Sept. 19, 2015. Harris drove about half a mile on Table Rock Road before hitting Sterling Cavanaugh, who was walking along the road. Cavanaugh had been cut off and turned away earlier in the night by staff at the Whisky River Cafe & Lounge due to his level of intoxication. Cavanaugh was pronounced dead at the scene.

When Jackson County Sheriff’s deputies arrived on the scene, they didn’t notice signs Harris was drunk, however they performed a drug recognition evaluation as part of standard procedure. More than two hours after the crash, Harris’ blood alcohol level tested at .14, nearly two times the legal limit.

Tests performed by crash reconstructionists showed Cavanaugh was walking within one to two feet inside the fog line. The defense’s reconstructionist said, because of his location, the conditions that night and Cavanaugh’s dark clothing, even a sober driver would not have been able to stop in time to avoid hitting the victim.

In November, 2016, several motions were heard by a Jackson County Circuit Judge. It was determined Harris was detained without reasonable suspicion on scene, so the majority of statements made by Harris between 1:25 a.m. and 2:40 a.m. the morning of the accident were determined to be inadmissible.

Harris’ conditionally guilty plea means he retains the right to appeal the judge’s ruling about what is, and is not, admissible in his case.

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