Kristine Marie Heath’s attorney said Tuesday that his client was not driving impaired when she ran a stop sign in a 2011 wreck that killed a passenger in her vehicle.
Heath, 37, is on trial on charges vehicular homicide, six counts of serious injury by vehicle, open container and failing to stop at a stop sign. The jury was chosen Monday, and opening statements and testimony began Tuesday at the courthouse in Evans.
The collision occurred about 9 p.m. June 17, 2011, when the Ford Explorer that Heath was driving ran a stop sign at Ridge Road near Appling and was hit by a Jeep Cherokee driven by Angel Herrin, of Augusta.
Morgan Renew, 18, of Barnwell, S.C., was in the back seat and was partially ejected from a window. She died from her injuries.
“When the vehicle rolled over, it rolled on top of her,” Assistant District Attorney Hank Syms said during opening statements.
Heath, who is from Augusta, told deputies that she had consumed fewer than two beers. Her attorney, Pete Theodocion, argued that Heath wasn’t impaired and that the wreck was caused by her not stopping at the stop sign.
Theodocion said the jury should consider second-degree vehicular homicide because Renew’s death occurred as the result of Heath’s running the stop sign, not driving under the influence.
“Kristine was chosen (to drive) because she wasn’t under the influence of alcohol,” Theodocion said. “That stop sign kind of jumps out at you. ... Everyone does it. It happens to every driver. You make mistakes on the road.”
Heath refused field blood-alcohol tests and blood tests at the hospital.
Herrin, her husband and four children were in the other vehicle. She, her husband and 8-year-old daughter were seriously injured.
“All I could do was scream for my children to hold on and I slammed on brakes,” Herrin testified Tuesday. “As fast as she was going, there was no way she was going to stop.”
Some of Heath’s six passengers also were injured.
Testimony is expected to continue this morning followed by closing arguments and jury deliberation.