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A New Jersey man at the center of a landmark drunken driving case may be reprosecuted after a jury cleared him of manslaughter but deadlocked on lesser charges. The judge set a Jan. 6 trial date, but the lead prosecutor declined to comment on whether he will retry Kenneth Powell, whose friend Michael Pangle hit and killed 22-year-old Navy Ensign John Elliott. The crash killed both men. But it was Powell, 40, who was charged with manslaughter, vehicular homicide and aggravated assault. He was asleep at home in July 2000 when the police called and asked him to pick up his friend Pangle, who had been arrested for drunk driving, according to news reports. Officers gave Powell the keys to Pangle’s car, which was parked on the road where he’d been stopped. Powell took his friend back to the car. Pangle subsequently hit Elliott. The case is the first of its kind where a third party with no involvement in the accident was criminally charged, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and legal experts on drunken driving offenses. Jurors deliberated for 2 1/2 days after the trial, which lasted almost three weeks. On Aug. 9, Salem County Superior Court Judge William L. Forester declared a mistrial after jurors unanimously cleared Powell of manslaughter but deadlocked on the other charges. A spokesman from the judge’s chambers said there was no poll conducted to show how the jurors had voted before they deadlocked. Both prosecutor Michael Ostrowski and defense lawyer Christopher Manganello would not comment because of a gag order. The case prompted the passage in August 2001 of a New Jersey law called “John’s Law,” which authorizes police to impound the cars of drunk drivers for 12 hours and to issue warnings of liability to those who pick them up from the station. MADD, which has not taken a formal position on the case, issued a statement saying, “We certainly agree that those who knowingly allow someone to drink and drive should be held accountable for their actions.” J. Gary Trichter, a Houston attorney with the National College for DUI Defense Inc., said he was surprised the judge didn’t direct a verdict because of a lack of duty. “The real problem is that the police should not be allowing intoxicated and dangerous people released,” said Trichter. “They impound the car for 12 hours, but not the driver.”

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