Zachary Dupon, 26, pleaded guilty to motor vehicle homicide by reckless operation in Edgartown District Court Friday. Judge Benjamin Barnes, after hearing emotional victim impact statements read on behalf of Emma Hall’s family and friends, rejected a plea deal worked out between the prosecution and the defense that would have afforded Dupon lighter punishment and instead sentenced him to 2½ years, the maximum penalty, with two of those years to be served in jail and the balance of the sentence (six months) to be suspended for a two year probation period. Dupon will also lose his driver’s license for 15 years.
Dupon’s plea stems from a Dec. 19, 2020, collision on Beach Road in Tisbury that killed 22-year-old Emma Hall. Hall was operating a Volkswagen Beetle when Dupon’s SUV smashed into her head-on at a speed Cape and Islands Assistant District Attorney Matt Palazzolo previously said was about 60 to 70 miles per hour. Hall was pronounced dead at the scene. Two passengers in her Volkswagen, her friends Molly and Monica Carroll, were injured and taken to Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. Monica Carroll was subsequently airlifted to a Boston hospital.
“No sentence that Your Honor can impose can change the tragedy that happened that night,” Palazzolo told the court. “I can’t put into words how this has affected the people involved in this case. Emma was a beloved member of the community.”
“This is a matter in which the tragedy cannot be overstated,” Rachel Self, Dupon’s attorney, told the court. “And the losses cannot be overstated. This has been devastating for obviously, absolutely, the families in this case, and it has devastated the entire community, and also devastated Mr. Dupon and his family. He had been wanting to accept his responsibility and role in this matter for quite some time, because he recognizes how important it is to accept his responsibility and not insist on exercising all of the rights afforded to him under the Constitution and take this case to trial. He wants to take responsibility for this.”
After his sentence was read off, Dupon was taken into custody by Court Officer John Hanavan, and waist-chained. As part of his guilty plea, Dupon also pleaded guilty to speeding and a marked lanes violation.
The victim impact statements that swayed Judge Barnes were written with the idea that Dupon was going to be given a lighter sentence. All of them took issue with giving any leniency toward the defendant.
Emma Hall’s parents, Peter and Helen Hall, declined to be in the courtroom. Michael Carroll read a victim impact statement on their behalf. The statement illustrated how painful the loss of their daughter was, and how deeply they were against a light sentence for Dupon.
“There are no words that can adequately describe the devastation and heartache when your child is killed,” Carroll told the court on behalf of the Halls. “We made it clear we didn’t want a plea deal, yet here we are. As a family, we have made the decision not to be physically in a courtroom to listen to a sentence we do not agree with or support. We believe the severity of the crime warrants significant time in jail, not months.”
The parents’ statement described how their daughter was robbed, even in her death, of fulfilling a wish: “We did not choose an autopsy. The state chose it for us, and took Emma’s body. Emma’s wishes were to be an organ donor, which was not fulfilled as a result.”
The parents’ statement also described how the legal case has made it difficult for them to celebrate their daughter’s life. “What we have learned is, If Emma’s killer does not wish to go to trial, that’s his choice, and all evidence that demonstrates Mr. Dupon willingly killed Emma is not presented to a jury,” they said through Carroll. “Zachary Dupon committed murder, and with this plea, which he agreed to, he is getting away with murder. And where is the justice for Emma? … Justice died the night Zachary Dupon killed our daughter.”
Carroll also read a statement on behalf of Emma’s godmother and aunt: “The loss of Emma Hall has reverberated through the community, but the loss to our family is significant. Emma was not only a beloved honorary member of our family, my goddaughter, and like a cousin to my children, but also a trusted caregiver to my son.”
The godmother’s statement described Emma’s relationship with her son, who has a disability. Emma Hall became his nanny, and learned how to provide his complex care, including giving him injections: “Since the death of our dear Emma, the loss of which my 12-year-old son is still reeling. We have felt her loss in significant ways.”
Emma was her son’s babysitter and best friend: “We are still processing this crushing loss of this strong, fine, especially kind, focused, brilliant girl who was an enormous part of our life.
The loss in our community has forever changed us. There will always be something missing, something that makes us ache terribly. The death of someone you love is always difficult, but the sudden, tragic loss of a young, vibrant life — the one Emma lived — causes the most unbearable, unending pain.
“Mr. Dupon’s reckless disregard, and his selfish, thoughtless behavior, has shattered the family and the community. There needs to be a strong degree of accountability and time served for gross negligence and carelessness.”
Lorraine Murphy read a statement on behalf of Emma’s sister, Sarah Hall: “Zachary Dupon’s actions have left a gaping hole, not only for my family, but life. My life will never be the same. The pain runs so deeply that I could not be present for today. Every moment of every day is swallowed up by the immense loss of my little sister Em. The trauma of Dec. 19, 2020, will never leave me. It will be part of my world for the rest of my life,” Murphy said, reading the statement. “I have lost my sister, my best friend, and my future children have lost their aunt. The world has lost the most beautiful life that radiated with love and strength. I hope that Zachary Dupon’s actions haunt him in every moment of every day of his life. And he experiences the pain that we will all live with. I am disappointed with the outcome of this case, but at the end of the day nothing will ever be a punishment for Zachary Dupon for recklessly taking the life of our beautiful Emma on Dec. 19, 2020, at the age of 22.”