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ONE LAST CALL

I'm not surprised the jury didn't convict Richard Horwitz on two counts of second-degree murder.

I wouldn't have voted for his conviction, either. There never was a real case against him for murder.

And without being able to pinpoint the exact time Horwitz injected cocaine into his arm, there was no way to prove a connection between drugs and the crash.

It's now time to face a manifestly unpleasant bit of truth.
In this case, Horwitz's incapacity as a driver can't be blamed on cocaine because medical tests can't prove beyond reasonable doubt when he injected the dosage into his arm.

The one clear-cut element that is identifiable in this tragic accident that cost two police officers their lives is Horwitz's car telephone.

He was dialing a number on that phone when he lost his concentration and swerved across the center line and crashed into the car bearing the two detectives.

The car telephone is fast becoming one of the most lethal elements facing drivers on the Valley's streets these days.

Larry Kazan, Horwitz's lawyer, admits his client was attempting to dial a number at the time of the crash. Telephone company records back this up.

As most drivers with car phones often do, Horwitz swerved because he lost his concentration. If nothing else, driving a car requires total concentration. Anything that affects a driver's total mental alertness endangers every other car and driver in the immediate area.

The Horwitz crash provides a laboratory exhibit as to why the car phone should be banned. It is an unnecessary convenience, and it is proving to be a deadly one.

In the brief period that car phones have been in existence, scores of auto crashes have been caused by drivers who lost their concentration while gabbing with their friends.

Anyone who drives a car regularly understands this.
How many times a day do you encounter drivers weaving back and forth with their phones serving as an appendage to their ears?

Who are they all calling?
Some are dialing Bob Mohan at KFYI-AM to complain about how angry they are that their right to own a gun is being threatened by Congress. They are also angry about quotas and about the ENSCO buyout.

Some are calling Pat McMahon at KTAR-AM to tell him how much they enjoyed the Desert Storm parade and the war that preceded it.

And the talk-show hosts encourage these nitwits in this activity by giving all calls made from car phones a priority rating.

The car phone has become a ubiquitous annoyance.
Some people call to say they will be fifteen minutes late for work. Others are calling to announce they're coming home from work fifteen minutes early.

All car phone owners have one thing in common: They are people with feelings of social inadequacy. They can't stand to be alone in their cars. They must be able to reach out and impress someone with the fact that they have enough money to own and operate a car phone.

All have one thing in common: Not one is making a call that couldn't be made more efficiently and safely from a land phone.

But the car telephone has developed an allure all its own. It has become the consummate toy of lawyers and executives. The man with a phone in his car is viewed as the Ed Beauvais of his neighborhood. It has become the perfect badge of success.

Blaming the Horwitz crash on cocaine was easy. It was the rabble-rousing thing to do and so County Attorney Richard Romley's office jumped on it.

Romley knows that when you mention drug use to the average citizen, they immediately fly into a frenzy of self-righteousness.

Romley understands this because he reacts the same way himself most times. The only time he ignores his theme about the evil of drug use is when it's being peddled in the parking lot next to the bar that pays him monthly rent.

Only when Romley's asked to renounce his interest in the tavern business does he go on radio and plead that as an American he has a right to the continued profits from this enterprise that was left to him in his father's will.

It is, Romley says, the patriotic American way. At least it is Romley's way. Not without good reason has it been said that patriotism is the last resort of scoundrels.

With Horwitz's use of cocaine as the driving force, Jerry Landau, the assistant county prosecutor in charge of the case, believed he had a virtual dynamite charge going in the prosecution's favor.

Here it is, folks. We have a wise-guy lawyer named Horwitz who has been messing around with cocaine.

He is so depraved that he gets up in the morning to shoot up before jumping into his Mercedes to speed to work.

He weaves across the dividing line on Seventh Street and smashes almost head-on into the car with the two police detectives. Horwitz is driving a Mercedes with an air bag. The cops are driving an American car with seat belts. They die. Horwitz survives.

Here's a guy who's responsible for the deaths of two good cops with families. Let's throw the book at him.

But first of all, let's dirty up Horwitz as much as possible. There's an oozing wound on his arm. Let's identify that as a spot where he just injected the cocaine.

It's no such thing, you say? Let them try to disprove it at the trial.
Let's say that Horwitz shot up just before leaving the house and that's what caused his attention to wander.

You say that no one can prove exactly when anyone took cocaine. So what? Make the defense disprove it.

By the time these charges appear in the newspapers a dozen or so times, every prospective juror is going to be more than willing to believe them.

Prosecutor Landau was right. That was the way I felt about the case when I went over to the new Superior Court in Mesa to catch part of the action.

But then I watched Dr. John Sullivan from University Medical Center in Tucson testify as an expert witness for the defense.

I watched him for two hours. There was no way, Dr. Sullivan said over and over that it could be determined by tests of Horwitz's blood and urine when the defendant last used cocaine.

Dr. Sullivan blew the strongest elements of the prosecution's case right out of the water.

And since Judge Paul Katz had ruled that only cocaine injected by Horwitz on the morning of the accident was relevant to the case, the prosecution was mortally damaged.

They were left with only one legitimate cause of the crash: Horwitz's car phone. This is not what they envisioned.

So the prosecution never came close to proving that it was cocaine that caused Horwitz to swerve across the median line on North Seventh Street last July.

One of the jurors was a lawyer. After hearing the testimony, she was adamant that she would never vote guilty, even if they had to deliberate until Phoenix was awarded the Super Bowl.

Horwitz is a lawyer with a record that indicates he is a first-class jerk. He likes to feel and act important. He's an admitted drug addict who is also an alcoholic.

But he is not guilty of second-degree murder and he never was.
What he is guilty of doing is driving around like an inconsiderate idiot with a telephone planted in his ear.

In the hands of someone like Horwitz, it proved to be a lethal weapon.

The car telephone is fast becoming one of the most lethal elements facing drivers on the Valley's streets these days.

The Horwitz crash provides a laboratory exhibit as to why the car phone should be banned.

How many times a day do you encounter drivers weaving back and forth with their phones serving as an appendage to their ears?