A jury did not decide Friday whether former UNC student Chandler Kania is guilty of murder after considering for more than five hours the details of a triple-fatal DWI collision he caused last year.
The jury will return to the Orange County Courthouse to resume deliberations at 9:30 a.m. Monday.
At issue is whether Kania, 21, of Asheboro, acted with malice when he drove drunk the wrong way on July 19, 2015, and crashed head-on into another car on Interstate 85/40 west of Hillsborough.
Three passengers in the other car – Darlene McGee, Felecia Harris King and King’s granddaughter Jahnice Beard, 6 – were killed in the crash. King’s young daughter, Jahnia King, now 11, was seriously injured.
Kania faces three felony second-degree murder charges and one misdemeanor reckless driving charge. The jury also could find him guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
He has pleaded guilty to several charges, including three counts of felony death by motor vehicle, felony causing serious injury and driving while impaired.
Jurors sent two questions to Superior Court Judge Henry Hight on Friday: how far in time before the crash could they consider Kania’s actions as they deliberated the murder charge, and the definition of a road.
An N.C. Highway Patrol trooper’s crash investigation indicated Kania may have been driving his Jeep between the guardrail in the median and the far left lane, going in the wrong direction. The animation showed the Jeep’s wheels would have been inside the travel lane when it hit the other car.
Hight said the jury could consider any of Kania’s actions before he resisted friends’ attempts to keep him from driving until the crash.
The highway, he said, is the entire width between property and right-of-way lines that is open to traffic.
Defense attorney Roger Smith Jr. attempted to object to Hight’s instructions, noting there’s a strong argument the jury should consider only the time of the impact, but was interrupted.
“I know what your position is, and it doesn’t make any sense,” Hight said.
Kania’s friends have testified that Kania was smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol in Wilmington, and at the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, a party and two Chapel Hill bars on July 17 and July 18. They testified that he and a friend argued about their relationships with two girls roughly an hour before the wreck.
Authorities have said Kania’s blood-alcohol level was 0.17 – more than twice the state’s legal threshold for impairment – and he tested positive for marijuana.