Charleston man's appeal denied

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

A Charleston, Mo., man serving 21 years for a 2002 car accident that killed two and severely injured a third person on Big Bend Boulevard lost an appeal last week.

The Missouri Court of Appeals denied Scott L. Bragg's attempt to overturn his guilty plea. Bragg had sought to show that there weren't enough facts to support his plea, that his attorney pressured him to plead guilty because Bragg couldn't pay for trial services, and that his attorney was ineffective.

A three-judge panel of the Eastern District appeals court rejected all Bragg's claims.

Cape Girardeau prosecutor Morley Swingle said Monday that he proved Bragg was driving 119 miles per hour at the time of the crash. The proof came from a "black box" device that records conditions for the five seconds before an airbag deploys.

'Black box' information

The device is in all newer model cars, Swingle said. It allows investigators to determine a car's speed at the time of impact, whether passengers were wearing safety belts and whether the brakes were being applied, he said.

Bragg, who had a blood alcohol content of .095 at the time of the accident, lost control of the 1999 Pontiac Trans Am as it crossed the center line.

The car then ran into a ditch, down an embankment, became airborne, hit a tree and a telephone wire and struck a culvert before coming to a stop, police said at the time.

Carl Scott Ford of Cape Girardeau and Tracie D. Ford of Olive Branch, Ill., died in the crash. Carla J. McNelly of Thebes, Ill., suffered severe injuries but survived.

Bragg was charged with two counts of vehicular manslaughter and one count of DWI assault. He received three consecutive seven-year prison sentences.

In a memorandum accompanying the order denying Bragg's appeal, the court noted that Bragg had not told Judge William Syler when he entered the guilty plea that he felt pressured to do or that his attorney was ineffective.

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