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TUESDAY, JANUARY 23, 2007
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Illegal immigrant whose wreck claimed 4 lives now awaiting deportation

HUNTSVILLE (AP) — An illegal immigrant who ran a stop sign in a wreck that killed four people is awaiting deportation to Mexico after completing his 18-month sentence and winning a partial victory on appeal that angered relatives of the victims.

The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals ruled the jury that convicted Rufo Martinez, 22, on a felony assault charge and four misdemeanor charges of criminally negligent homicide had returned inconsistent verdicts.

The court upheld the misdemeanor charges but struck down the felony charge, instructing the trial judge to reduce the felony conviction to a misdemeanor.

"I'm furious," Jerelene Jackson, mother of one of the victims, said Sunday. "They did this and nobody notified us."

The appeals court's ruling in December did not change the length of time Martinez had to serve.

He was sentenced to 18 months on the felony and misdemeanor convictions stemming from the deadly wreck May 27, 2005.

Martinez's attorney, Ron Smith, said Monday his client, who is from Mexico, was released from state prison in October and delivered into the custody of federal immigration authorities for deportation.

He's now in a federal holding facility in Louisiana.

He was initially set for deportation as a foreign national convicted of an aggravated felony. Although he is no longer a convicted felon, Smith said the federal government can still deport Martinez because he's in the country illegally.

Martinez ran a stop sign at Research Park Boulevard and Plummer Road, slamming into another car. Lisa Nadine Cartwright, 41; her daughter, Pamela Cartwright, 20; Pamela Cartwright's 18-month-old son, Sa-myrin; and Pamela Cartwright's friend Eria Jackson, 20, were killed.

The appeals court agreed with Smith's argument that the felony and misdemeanor verdicts were inconsistent because the felony found that Martinez was aware of the risk but disregarded it, and the misdemeanors found that he was unaware of the risk.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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