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Mansur Shakirov

Other McLean County Exonerations
On the evening of March 5, 2013, 28-year-old Mansur Shakirov was driving a semi-tractor trailer southbound on Interstate 39 near Hudson, Illinois when his truck collided with emergency vehicles parked in the left lane in response to an earlier traffic accident.

Thirty-nine-year-old Christopher Brown, a Hudson firefighter, was struck and killed. Police issued two traffic citations to Shakirov that night and released him to return his home in Spokane, Washington.

In May 2013, Shakirov was charged with reckless homicide.

Prior to trial, Shakirov’s defense attorney moved to bar the prosecution from introducing evidence that at the time of the accident, Shakirov had driven more than the legal number of hours allowed in a given stretch for truck drivers. The defense also sought to bar the prosecution from presenting evidence that he violated a state law requiring vehicles to reduce speed or change lanes when approaching emergency vehicles.

On March 10, 2014, Shakirov went to trial in McLean County Circuit Court. After a jury was selected and sent home for the day, the trial judge ruled that the prosecution could present evidence relating to the number of hours Shakirov had been driving, and as well as evidence that he had failed to slow and change lanes to avoid emergency vehicles.

Illinois State Police Trooper Christopher Parmley testified that at 9:40 p.m. on March 5, 2013, he received a call about an accident in the southbound lanes of Interstate 39 at mile marker 6. There are two northbound lanes and two southbound lanes with a grassy median. Parmley said a northbound pickup truck towing a trailer of auto parts lost control when the trailer started “fishtailing.” The pickup truck crossed the median to the southbound lanes where a semi-trailer truck struck the back of the pickup truck and knocked the trailer loose. The semi stopped in the median, and the trailer stopped on its side with the rear of the trailer partially blocking the left southbound lane. The pickup truck came to rest on its side facing north on the right shoulder of the southbound lanes.

Dan Hite, chief of the Hudson community fire protection district, testified that he was notified of the accident and drove there in his SUV with emergency lights. He described the weather conditions as “light snow, blowing, fairly heavy winds…cold.” Hite said the road was “slick,” with snow “blowing across [I-39],” but that “visibility was not obscured.” He said he drove “at a safe but moderate speed” of between 35 to 40 miles per hour.

Hite said the pickup truck and semi had their hazard lights blinking. He said he parked his SUV on the left shoulder of the northbound lanes. Ultimately, Hite said, an ambulance parked facing south in the median next to the semi. A fire engine was parked on the left southbound lane of the interstate next to the trailer and a police squad car was parked on the left shoulder adjacent to and slightly behind the fire engine.

Hite said that all of the emergency vehicles had their emergency lighting activated, including a light bar at the rear of the fire engine that had eight lights blinking sequentially from left to right alerting southbound drivers to move into or remain in the right southbound lane.

Subsequently, another emergency SUV containing four firefighters, including Scott, arrived. Hite told the jury that because he was concerned about oncoming southbound motorists, he ordered that SUV to park about a half mile north of the accident so that they could alert southbound traffic to reduce speed and move into the right lane. Hite said that after he issued that order, the speed of the light traffic coming toward the accident site “was slowing as it approached.”

While preparing to wrap up the scene, Hite recalled that SUV to the accident scene. The SUV then drove down and parked behind the fire engine in the left southbound lane.

Prior to leaving, Hite said, he was standing at the rear of the fire engine and in front of the SUV with Assistant Chief Jeff Thomas, Captain Steve Modine, and Lieutenant Jason Brutlag. At some point, Thomas—who was monitoring oncoming traffic—yelled, “[H]e's not stopping. He's not stopping. Run.”

Hite testified that he looked up and saw “the largest semi I've ever seen in my life” approaching their location. Hite said he began to run and heard “tearing metal,” two loud booms, and “then it was eerily…quiet.”

Robert Dicken, who drove the fire truck, testified that the road conditions were “spotty but not snow covered” and he was able to drive at a “fairly decent speed” of about 40 to 45 miles per hour.

Thomas testified that he and five other firefighters arrived in the fire engine. He estimated visibility at 3 to 4 miles and described the conditions on the highway as “a little bit snow packed in the passing lane, clean in the driving lane, [and] a little bit of cross wind.” He said the snow was primarily caused by the wind blowing snow across from the fields.

Dicken parked in the left southbound lane to force traffic into the southbound right lane and away from the emergency medical technicians working in the median. Thomas said he got out and ordered the others to remain in the cab.

For about 40 minutes, Thomas watched the flow of traffic, which was slowing down and moving into the right southbound lane. After the SUV arrived, Thomas said he saw the lights of an approaching vehicle about 1.5 miles away. He said he could not tell which lane it was in or what kind of vehicle it was until it was about a mile away, when he recognized it was a semi.

Thomas said that when the semi was about a half mile away, he became concerned because it wasn’t moving out of the left southbound lane and had not activated turn signals indicating any intent to move over. He said he realized it wasn’t slowing down and did not hear any screeching or squealing tires. He yelled to everyone to run because the driver was not stopping.

Thomas said he heard the collision as he ran. He then returned and found Brown lying on the interstate about 60 to 70 feet from where he had last been standing.

Volunteer firefighter Tyler Scott Cobler testified that he was in the SUV with Captain Modine and volunteer firefighters Ben Smith and Brown.

Cobler testified that he looked over his shoulder and saw the semi coming. He said he heard people yelling outside and that Brown, after first trying to get into the SUV, “thought he could try to outrun (the semi).” Brown then “slammed the door (shut) and that was the last that I saw of him.”

Cobler said he did not hear any screeching or squealing indicating the semi was braking. He said at the moment of impact, the SUV went airborne, slammed into the fire engine, and “just exploded at that point.”

The McLean County coroner testified that Brown died from “multiple blunt force injuries.”

Illinois State Police Trooper Charles Baird, who investigated the accident, testified that semi drivers are required to maintain a log to keep track of time spent driving; not driving, but still on duty (vehicle loading or maintenance); in the sleeper berth; and off duty (meals or showering at a rest stop).

Baird testified that drivers are allowed to be “on duty” whether driving or not for 14 hours of every 24 hour period. He said that Shakirov’s log for March 4—the day prior to the accident—showed that Shakirov was on duty and traveled 218 miles from Billings, Montana to Glendive, Montana from 7:30 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. Shakirov then logged himself as off duty from 11:15 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., then returned to duty and drove 429 miles to Barnesville, Minnesota at midnight. During that stretch, Shakirov had entered “on duty, not driving” status on three occasions of 15 minutes each.

Baird said that because Shakirov began his day at 7:30 a.m., he was required to complete on-duty responsibilities by 9:30 p.m. Because he drove until midnight, Shakirov was 2.5 hours over the limit, Baird said.

On March 5, 2013, Shakirov logged himself in the sleeper berth from midnight to 10:30 a.m. He logged himself as off duty from then to 1:45 p.m. He then logged himself as on duty, and was still on duty at the time of the collision at 8:45 p.m.

Baird testified that although Shakirov had violated the 14-hour rule on March 4, he did not violate any regulation on the day of the crash. Baird said that Shakirov was not cited for the March 4 violation because it was a past offense.

John Dittmer, an Illinois State Police master sergeant, testified as an expert in crash reconstruction. He calculated that at the moment of impact, Shakirov’s semi was traveling at a minimum speed of at least 37.36 miles per hour. His conclusion that Shakirov did not apply the brakes was based on the testimony of firefighters that they heard no tires squealing.

Illinois State Police Lt. Kevin Hoop testified that he interviewed Shakirov at the scene, and issued him tickets for failing to move over for emergency vehicles and failing to reduce speed in hazardous conditions.

Hoop said Shakirov said he saw a truck in front of him and attempted to brake, but he could not stop his semi.

Hoop admitted that he had previously said the road conditions were “literally a sheet of ice” and that Shakirov, during the interview, repeatedly said he applied his brakes but could not stop.

The jury was shown a video from trooper Christopher Parmley’s squad car parked adjacent to and just behind the fire engine. The collision ended the recording. Parmley described Shakirov’s semi as the “Titantic coming through our original accident scene.”

Parmley said that after crash, he asked Shakirov how fast he was going and that Shakirov said, “not more than 50 miles an hour.”

At the conclusion of the prosecution’s evidence, Shakirov’s attorney asked the trial judge to acquit Shakirov because the prosecution had not proved that Shakirov acted recklessly and that what occurred was a tragic accident, not a crime.

The judge denied the motion, saying that “all the witnesses have testified that the weather was poor on the night in question, that the roadway was slick and snow-covered and that the vehicles were traveling slowly on the night in question.” The judge said the emergency lights on the vehicles were activated and that Shakirov failed to slow down to avoid crashing.

The defense presented no evidence. On March 14, 2013, the jury convicted Shakirov of reckless homicide.

At sentencing, Shakirov said, “I deeply regret what happened, your honor, but at the time of the accident I had been (a) truck driver for over a month and I was driving south… and the roads seemed to be clear… And while I saw the emergency lights, I assumed that they’re on the right side and moved over from the right lane to the left lane and (began) slowing down. When I realized that emergency vehicle (was) on the left lane, I tried to stop my vehicle and I couldn't and lost control and [the] accident happened.”

The judge sentenced Shakirov to four years in prison.

On appeal, the defense argued that the prosecution failed to show that Shakirov consciously disregarded the danger posed by the less-than-ideal road conditions and therefore had not been reckless.

In April 2017, the Illinois Appellate Court reversed the conviction. The court held that the trial judge had erroneously allowed the evidence of Shakirov’s excess driving on the day prior to the accident and erroneously allowed evidence that his failure to change lanes because of the presence of emergency vehicles was a traffic violation.

The court held that the state had failed to present evidence that Shakirov acted recklessly. “The best that can be said of the State’s case is that (Shakirov) may have been inattentive for a few seconds (perhaps adjusting his radio or engaging in some similar activity) and then failed to realize the left lane was blocked as he unsuccessfully attempted to brake his huge semi at night on an icy highway in blowing snow,” the court said.

“Such brief inattention (if it even occurred) falls far short” of the requirement that the prosecution show a “conscious disregard of a substantial and unjustifiable risk,” the court held. “This evidence does not come close to meeting that standard.”

The court ordered the case dismissed for insufficient evidence.

On April 3, 2018, Shakirov was granted a certificate of innocence and in May 2018, the state of Illinois awarded him $97,000 in compensation.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 6/5/2018
Most Serious Crime:Manslaughter
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2013
Sentence:4 years
Age at the date of reported crime:28
Contributing Factors:False or Misleading Forensic Evidence
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No