The Pennsylvania Superior Court on Friday overturned four counts of third-degree murder against Khusen Akhmedov, a Lancaster man who was drag racing on Roosevelt Boulevard in 2013 when he crashed his car into a family walking across the street, killing the mother and three of her four children.
In a 19-page opinion, the court said the collision occurred at the crest of a hill and in the dark, making it difficult for Akhmedov to see Samara Banks, 27, and her young children, who were crossing in an area without pedestrian crosswalks.
The three-judge panel also said Akhmedov, now 27, tried to swerve out of the way of the family, then stayed at the scene to try to help Banks and her sons Saa'mir Williams, 7 months; Saa'sean Williams, 23 months; and Saa'deem Griffin, 4.
"Here, the evidence did not establish that [Akhmedov] had the requisite sustained and purposeful recklessness … to sustain a conviction for third degree murder," the court wrote.
As a result, the court ruled that Akhmedov — who was sentenced to 17 to 34 years in prison — should be resentenced on the lesser counts from his conviction, which include homicide by vehicle, involuntary manslaughter, and reckless endangerment.
Cameron Kline, spokesman for the District Attorney's Office, said the office had not yet decided whether to appeal. He declined to comment further.
Akhmedov's attorney, Michael Diamondstein, said: "While this was a horrible tragedy and Mr. Akhmedov will carry the remorse for his actions with him for the rest of his life, he's extremely happy that the Superior Court agreed that he didn't act with malice."
Akhmedov was convicted in 2015 of all counts at a bench trial before Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Steven R. Geroff.
Akhmedov had been accused of racing his 2012 Audi S4 on the Boulevard against a souped-up white 1994 Honda Civic driven by Ahmen Holloman. Akhmedov lost control of his car and drove into Banks and her children at 79 m.p.h. as they crossed the Boulevard on the border between Feltonville and Olney.
Holloman eventually pleaded guilty to four counts of vehicular homicide and was sentenced to five to 10 years in prison.
No date has been set for Akhmedov's resentencing, Diamondstein said.