An appeals court overturned third-degree murder convictions of a man accused of striking and killing a woman and her three young sons while street racing in Philadelphia more than four years ago.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported the Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled Friday that Khusen Akhmedov lacked the "sustained and purposeful recklessness" to support the convictions.

The three-judge panel said the July 2013 crash occurred at the crest of a hill and in the dark, making it difficult for him to see 27-year-old Samara Banks and her children crossing in an area without a crosswalk.

The appeals court also said he tried to swerve out of the way and then stayed at the scene to try to help Banks, her 7-month-old Saa'mir Williams, 23-month-old Saa'sean Williams and 4-year-old Saa'deem Griffin.

The appeals court said the 27-year-old defendant, who had been sentenced to 17 to 34 years, should be resentenced on lesser counts including vehicular homicide, involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment.

Prosecutors declined comment on whether an appeal was planned. Defense attorney Michael Diamondstein called the case "a horrible tragedy" and said his client will be remorseful for the rest of his life but is "extremely happy that the Superior Court agreed that he didn't act with malice."

Another driver, Ahmen Hollomon, was also initially charged with third-degree murder, but a judge dismissed that charge. He was eventually sentenced to five to 10 years on vehicular homicide counts.


Information from: The Philadelphia Inquirer, http://www.inquirer.com