Thursday, August 06, 2009

Court of Appeals affirms Conviction of Man who Attacked Cyclists

While doing some research, I came across this decision, and thought it was quite timely given all the online discussions about sharing the trail, pool, and yes, the road. I didn't find many news articles and instead chose to summarize the decision so the facts are directly from trial testimony and the Court's reasoning.

Morrison v. State, 2009-TX-0723.517, Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, Dallas (July 21, 2009).

Arthur Morrison was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon for attacking Jennifer Tanay and Brian Kliburn, a married couple who were out riding their bikes on the Katy Trail system in Dallas when they encountered Morrison around 9pm on July 30, 2007. Apparently, Morrison rode up screaming “on the left” and passed a little too close. Kliburn responded by calling him an @$$hole. When they observed Morrison slowing down, they passed him hoping to exit the trail as soon as possible. However, Morrison retaliated by repeatedly bumping Tanay’s wheel and then slowing way down. She was behind her husband a few feet and trying to accelerate to catch up with him and exit the trail when Morrison continued tapping her wheel forcing her to slow and then kicking her in the knee repeatedly. When her husband turned around he saw Morrison wielding a box cutter and attempting to slash Tanay’s arms and neck. Kliburn rushed to her and Morrison fled. He then returned pulled Tanay off her bike and began stabbing her in the chest with the box cutter and turned on Kliburn when Kliburn threw Morrison’s bike at him hitting in the face and torso. Luckily, Tanay was able to break away and call 911 and only had minor injuries. Morrison was charged, convicted, and sentenced to 35 years in February 2008. On appeal, he argued that the trial court erred in not allowing a self-defense instruction (legalese). The appellate court disagreed finding that Morrison was the first aggressor and crediting testimony given by an employee at Richardson Bike Mart who testified that Morrison brought his “damaged” bike in to be repaired and told the employee that he was being harassed by a couple of cyclists on the trail and that the damage probably occurred when he “was taking care of one of the individuals.”

There’s a powerful lesson in all of this. Road rage doesn’t only exist on the roads. It’s on the trails, in the pool, and well, just about everywhere. If you run, ride, or swim fairly often, you know exactly what I’m talking about and have probably encountered or experienced trail rage or pool rage. Some of us retaliate with a few choice words, refuse to let the person pass, pass too close, fly up on their wheel without a word, stare them down, snort, mutter, pump our fists, shoot the bird, slap their car, chase them down or throw our water bottle at them. Nonetheless, no good comes from these bursts of anger. At the very least, you’ve become angry and now you’re not enjoying your ride or workout. At the worst, the situation escalates into an altercation like this one. Just let it ride, stay calm, make a note of the car, person, bike and if the behavior is dangerous, report it to the authorities.