Jacksonville man gets credit for time served in 2002 case

A Jacksonville man who successfully appealed a 2002 manslaughter conviction for killing a neighbor in a drunken driving crash, then pleaded guilty to lesser charges during a retrial, will serve no more time for his crimes, a judge ruled Tuesday.

"I am so sorry for creating this monster, for wrecking so many lives," Edwin Shane Coen, 38, told a courtroom packed with family members from both sides.

"I'm truly sorry. I'm truly sorry," he said.

Jackson County Circuit Judge Benjamin Bloom sentenced Coen to 20 months for criminally negligent homicide in the death of Burke McNulty Thompson, 58, of Ruch, but gave credit for time served during the earlier conviction.

"We all know this could have been prevented," Bloom said. "Hopefully justice delayed is not justice denied for anyone."

Coen's and Thompson's families, who both lived in the Applegate, had been friendly. But the relationship was shattered on Feb. 13, 2002, when Coen's full-sized pickup truck collided head-on with Thompson's 1967 Ford Mustang on Highway 238 near Forest Creek Road. Paramedics pronounced Thompson dead after they pulled him from his car, police said. Coen was treated for minor injuries.

Coen won a new manslaughter trial after his conviction in 2002 was thrown out four years later by an appeals court, which ruled that Oregon State Police Trooper Jeff Allison illegally compelled Coen to talk about the crime and to consent to blood and urine tests.

Coen had served about 30 months of his six-year sentence before he was released from prison and his case remanded for retrial.

Coen's second trial began in December. But on the second day of the jury trial, Coen accepted a plea agreement to lesser charges, admitting guilt to criminally negligent homicide and drunken driving.

On Tuesday Bloom sentenced Coen to 20 months in prison, three years' post-prison supervision and a lifetime revocation of his driver's license for the homicide plea. The judge also sentenced Coen to 90 days in jail and 18 months' post-prison supervision for the drunken driving charge, and ordered him to pay $2,000 in fines and fees.

Before Bloom gave Coen credit for time served, Jackson County Deputy District Attorney Karen Loomis had asked that Coen serve additional jail time.

Coen's first charge of driving while under the influence of intoxicants came in 1994, when he then entered a diversion program. His second DUII came in 1997. In 2000, Coen racked up a felony charge of eluding police that was reduced to a misdemeanor. Finally, in 2002, Coen caused the death of Thompson by driving drunk, Loomis said.

Loomis accepted the plea deal during the retrial rather than risk an acquittal on all charges because the state's case against Coen had lost important evidence over the past decade, including key testimony from an expert in accident scene reconstruction, she said. Loomis told the Thompson family that accepting Coen's plea bargain likely meant he would serve no more jail time. She also said she understands they are disappointed with the result.

Thompson's daughter, Rhonda Jones, has been vocal in the media about her anger towards Coen, some of his family members, and the prosecutor's handling of the case. On Tuesday, Jones read impassioned letters from herself, her uncle and her brother.

Calling Coen a "killer of man and hopes and dreams," Jones begged Bloom to "please, please send (Coen) back to prison to finish his sentence."

Jones said the tragedy devastated her entire family, including her mother, who now works two jobs to maintain the family property in Ruch. Her own children lost their beloved grandfather.

Coen is grateful he has been released from the threat of further imprisonment. But the pain he caused by choosing to drive after drinking alcohol has been with him every day, said his attorney, Michael Robert Levine.

"It has weighed on him for 10 years. It will be with him until the day he dies," Levine said, adding Coen may face judgment for his actions in the afterlife.

"All this weighs on his head," he said.

A self-admitted alcoholic, Coen told jurors in his 2003 trial that he drank 15 Coors Lite beers on Feb. 13, 2002. He said he continued to drink as he drove home from Applegate Lake along Highway 238, where his pickup collided with Thompson's vehicle.

After Tuesday's sentencing, Coen's mother, Ruth Simpson, said her son has been sober for 10 years. He has submitted to weekly blood alcohol testing and urinalysis when requested.

Simpson said the case was "a very political case." Her son "was found guilty by the media and MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) before he ever had a chance to have a trial, or even before any accident reconstruction reports had been done. There were no witnesses to the accident, which made this a very scientific case," Simpson said in a letter to the Mail Tribune.

Ultimately, the prosecution's accident reconstructionist could not place Coen in the wrong lane of travel as was alleged in the first trial, she wrote.

Penny Thompson said the loss of her husband and the ongoing court proceedings have left her feeling "very empty."

Thompson said her husband always told her children that driving is a privilege and not a right. Coen lost that right by driving drunk, she said. But Thompson also expressed compassion for Coen's family's suffering. It is her wish that this be the final chapter in a tragedy that has devastated both families, she said.

"Everyone go on with their lives," Thompson said.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or email sspecht@mailtribune.com.

Share This Story