Accused wrong-way driver makes court appearance

He is accused of killing a Phoenix Fire Department dispatcher while driving the wrong way on Interstate 17.

Prosecutors say he was drunk, a judge set his bond at $700,000.

Tuesday morning the suspect asked for that bond to be reduced, but the victim's family fought against it.

The suspect's attorney claimed the bond was too excessive and violated his constitutional rights.

The victim's family and prosecutors urged the judge not to release the accused wrong-way driver. In the end, the judge sided with the victims.

Megan Lange was driving home from her job as a dispatcher when she was killed, leaving behind her husband and two young sons.

"Every time we're in that courtroom we're reminded over and over again about what happened on January 27, 2015, when that vehicle sped down the freeway the wrong way," said James Frazier, Lange's supervisor.

Investigators say the suspect swerved to avoid a Department of Public Safety Vehicle while driving the wrong-way on the I-17. He then slammed into two other cars. The prosecutor revealed that Stephen Martin's blood alcohol content was .278, about 3 1/2 times the legal limit.

"To reduce the bond and release him, that wasn't an option for the family, the family was adamantly against that," said Frazier.

The suspect's family spoke too, asking the judge to reduce the bond. His attorney cited similar cases where bonds were set much lower.

"Her status as a member of the fire department should not affect the court's decision regarding the terms and conditions of release, the $700,000 bond for a man with no prior felony convictions, and his history, it's excessive and violates his constitutional rights," said the defense attorney.

"The message I believe the judge gave was, we will not tolerate that, we are not going to tolerate that in our public. We are not going to drive the wrong way on our freeway, drive around a police officer with lights and sirens trying to stop you, and then proceed to hit multiple vehicles," said Frazier.

In court, Lange's family and friends wore T-shirts that read "Sounding the alarm for Megan Lange, stop wrong-way driving."

Martin pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and some other charges.

According to prosecutors, he does have a previous DUI conviction on his record.

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