WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- It's been more than a year since Wilmington Police officer Richard Matthews died after crashing into a tree during a high-speed chase. Today jury selection is underway in the trial of the man who led that chase, Anthony Pierce. He faces several charges, including second-degree murder.
In February 2009, a police officer stopped Pierce for speeding on South College Road, but Pierce sped away and led officers on a chase. Ofc. Richard Matthews was called in for backup. He responded from Carolina Beach Road reaching speeds of more than 100 miles per hour. That's when something went terribly wrong.
As Matthews was traveling down Shipyard Blvd., he saw a cardboard box in the road. He swerved to avoid the box, and his car turned left across Shipyard and into trees killing him.
Now District Attorney Ben David will try to prove that Pierce's actions that night caused Matthews's death.
"It's important to send this message to anyone who would flee from officers that if a death results in the course of that pursuit, they will be held responsible to the fullest extent of the law," David told reporters on March 10, 2009.
In other words, if Pierce had stopped for the officers pursuing him, they would not have needed to call for back up, and Matthews would not have been driving down Shipyard at the time of his crash.
If a jury convicts Pierce, the trial could set a precedent for those who lead law enforcement on high-speed chases.
"We are very pleased to take this case forward," David said last year, "and if we have to fight to make precedent in this state, frankly we believe this is a fight worth having."
This week the prosecution will argue that Pierce's reckless behavior resulted in the first death of a Wilmington Police officer in more than thirty years.
Pierce was indicted on charges of second-degree murder in March 2009. He also faces charges for fleeing to elude arrest resulting in death, pot possession and two charges of gun possession by a felon.