Prison sentence an outrage

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I have known Kristine Heath for 23 years, and was present in the courtroom the second and final day of her trial (“Woman guilty in fatal wreck,” Aug. 15). It appears to me that she was given a sentence of 20 years in prison based on the judge’s opinion of her demeanor in the courtroom and in the police video from the scene of the accident.

After the closing arguments, the judge instructed the jury to decide its verdict based on the evidence, not on personal bias or the opinions presented by the attorneys. The judge did exactly what he told the jury not to do. After the statements were made by the families involved, he explained the sentencing to the courtroom, stating “I’m not seeing an acceptance of responsibility, none at all,” and “I’m shocked by the total lack of remorse or concern or emotion, that you realize that you’ve just taken a life.”

I find it difficult to have any respect for our court system after watching the way Superior Court Judge Michael Annis handled the sentencing of this case. Judge Annis did not know Krissy Heath. I do. Under duress and difficult situations, she does not outwardly demonstrate her emotions. She remained very calm during the trial and had no facial expression even during the sentencing. Because of her personality, he gave her an extremely harsh sentence. I pray and hope that the legal system, including the district attorney, is upset and embarrassed by this judge’s lack of judgment, and demands a review of this sentence.

In addition, I have never been on Ridge Road and have never seen the stop sign. But I understand from many people that it is difficult to see. I also have been told that the Georgia Department of Transportation has placed warning/rumble strips as you are approaching the stop sign. Interestingly enough, this was done after this particular accident occurred.

Patricia N. Collins

Aiken, S.C.

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Riverman1
93859
Points
Riverman1 08/22/13 - 03:24 am
8
2
Needs Help

Mike Annis needs counseling.

Riverman1
93859
Points
Riverman1 08/22/13 - 03:56 am
4
1
Warning Strips

About the warning strips. It's been a few years since I've driven that road, but weren't they up before? The letter writer says they were added later. In any case, the strips are just more objective evidence it's a dangerous and tricky road. What I remember about the road is it's winding with many sharp bends with woods and then you suddenly come up on the stop sign.

jkline
527
Points
jkline 08/22/13 - 04:18 am
8
3
Only in America

Only in America can a person be sent to prison for a simple automobile accident. A prison sentence is not appropriate for this. Accidents happen all the time. It is called an accident for a reason, and accidents are not crimes (except that anything can be made a crime on paper).

corgimom
38517
Points
corgimom 08/22/13 - 05:11 am
5
9
By that thought, jkline,

By that thought, jkline, someone should be able to fire a gun into a crowd of people. If it kills somebody, it's an accident and they shouldn't go to prison, right?

And, of course, if somebody who has been drinking, runs a stop sign and someone is killed and others are very seriously hurt, they shouldn't have anything happen to them.

If it were your family member that was killed, jkline, I think you would feel differently.

When you drink and then get behind the wheel of a 3,000 lb. lethal weapon, well, whatever happens- you did it to yourself.

Dixieman
17430
Points
Dixieman 08/22/13 - 05:48 am
8
11
Nonsense

She took a life. She's lucky she still has hers. What if the person she had killed had been YOUR child? It was a fair and just sentence.

Little Lamb
49133
Points
Little Lamb 08/22/13 - 05:55 am
5
1
Gamble

Ms. Heath's attorney gambled that he could beat whatever offer the DA served up by taking the case to trial. He gambled, and she lost.

I remember a story about the attorney getting caught up in a gambling raid several years ago. It was high-stakes poker. Here's a link:

High Stakes

I wonder whether Judge Annis’s outrageous sentence was aimed more at the attorney than at Ms. Heath.

myfather15
56913
Points
myfather15 08/22/13 - 06:03 am
11
3
Corgimom

"By that thought, jkline, someone should be able to fire a gun into a crowd of people. If it kills somebody, it's an accident and they shouldn't go to prison, right?"

Please!! It's called EXTREME negligence, which shooting a gun into a crowd WOULD BE. The law reads, You knew or SHOULD HAVE KNOWN, it could have caused serious injury or death!! Which, anyone with common sense knows shooting a firearm into a crowd, will likely cause. How is running a stop sign ALONE, extreme negligence and INTENT to cause serious bodily injury or death? By your statement, I guess you believe Mrs. Heath INTENDED to cause serious injury to her own family as well.

myfather15
56913
Points
myfather15 08/22/13 - 06:12 am
8
2
"And, of course, if somebody

"And, of course, if somebody who has been drinking, runs a stop sign and someone is killed and others are very seriously hurt, they shouldn't have anything happen to them."

So, now it's illegal to drink at all, and drive? I guess by this standard, we change the law to COMPLETE ZERO Tolerance!! If you registered ANY detectable amount of alochol, while operating a motor vehicle, you should be charged with DUI, right?

That's the difference in ALCOHOL and illicit drugs. You can actually drink a certain amount of alcohol and it NOT effect your motor skills. That amount differs from person to person, depending on how often you drink and your body weight. This is why we have a LEVEL that is consider per se; but can still make a less safe charge, under that limit. Neither, were proven in court; so you must take into consideration ONLY the fact that she was a distracted driver, ran a stop sign and caused death!! But was there EXTREME negligence or INTENT to do harm to others. How many people in this Country are distracted drivers and cause accidents? If I started counting now; 1,2,3..........I might finish next week!!

This sentence appears to be based on pure emotion; and THAT should not happen in a case like this!! In a premeditated murder? SURE, take the families feelings into consideration, because the defendent INTENDED to kill that person!!

macktaylor
29
Points
macktaylor 08/22/13 - 06:16 am
3
1
Prison typical in cases like this

I understand that people know Kris and know that she was definitely remorseful about this incident. Anyone close to this situation knows that this was a tight knit group that suffered a horrible tragedy. I wasn't there for the trial or the verdict to know first hand how the jury arrived at their verdict. In my opinion reckless driving should take more than driving while distracted. For a verdict of first degree vehicular homicide, the State must show that she was either driving while impaired or committed the offense of reckless driving. From news reports it appears the jury decided that she was driving recklessly, if that is the case I think they got it wrong.

With that being said, the jury decides facts and when deciding facts they cannot arrive at their conclusion based on prejudice or bias hence the judge's instruction in that regard. When a judge is sentencing he can consider that a person has not accepted responsibility for their conduct in fashioning his sentence. Not pleading guilty is something that a judge can consider as an element of that, like it or not. The judge's sentence should reflect the attitudes and desires of the community. The community representatives (the jury) decided this was more than just an accident and convicted Kris of something more serious. That is why the judge sentenced her to prison time. Really he was just doing his job and we are certainly entitled to disagree with that, but personal attacks on a fine upstanding man like Mike Annis is just not proper. I have been in the courtroom many times and have seen him to be a very fair judge. I don't always agree with him, but I'm always glad that I'm not the one that has to make the decision. I didn't want to see Kris get this type of punishment, because I know she is also a fine upstanding person, but I can't blame the judge for doing his job.

All of you that are friends with Kris that want to complain about what has happened need to remember that the next thing Kris' attorney is going to do is ask the judge to reconsider his sentencing decision. Therefore, it would probably be much more prudent not to levy personal attacks on the person that stands to make that decision.

shrimp for breakfast
5641
Points
shrimp for breakfast 08/22/13 - 06:53 am
7
3
20 years for an accident

Worst sentence ever. No DUI. Ran a stop sign. If I accidently ran a Stop sign and a passenger was killed I can go to prison for 20 years?
Thank God I'm moving to Florida in 2 weeks.

macktaylor
29
Points
macktaylor 08/22/13 - 06:59 am
5
3
Shrimp

The jury is the one that said she was guilty of 1st degree vehicular homicide, not the judge. It seems that most of you disagree with the jury. The jury could have convicted her of 2nd degree vehicular homicide (a misdemeanor) and there would have been no prison sentence. The judge's sentence is a reflection of the jury's verdict.

Bizkit
35644
Points
Bizkit 08/22/13 - 08:04 am
6
1
So the dude gunned his engine

So the dude gunned his engine before running over 7 physicians and killing one and he just walks, but run a stop sign and 20 years? Justice really is blind.

Riverman1
93859
Points
Riverman1 08/22/13 - 08:06 am
3
2
Off the Scale Harsh Sentence

Besides it being a tremendously harsh sentence, there was this bizarre lecture by Annis that she didn't show remorse. However, if you read the words Heath said in court, it was like reading a sympathy card. It could not have been more sympathetic to the family and court. That's why I say Mike Annis needs counseling.

If this letter is accurate and he told the jury to disregard the opinions expressed by the attorneys, that's kind of strange, too. What are attorneys for? Closing statements mean nothing?

Red Headed Step Child
4491
Points
Red Headed Step Child 08/22/13 - 08:17 am
1
1
Sentences

It seems that most of the time those convicted of crimes and sentenced to prison rarely serve their full sentence (unless there is no possibility of parole). I would think that would be the case here.

Just yesterday we learned of the 35 year verdict on the Wikileaks case - and how it was discussed that he'd probably end up serving 7 years (or something like that).

faithson
5528
Points
faithson 08/22/13 - 08:42 am
5
1
be careful of what you ask for...

judge Annis got his job because he was politically attached. Having known him for over 30 years I can say that He was as poor a choice as can be made to sit in judgement. He never was known for his jurisprudence. Now the fine people of Columbia County have an incompetent jurist deciding their fate.

Gary Ross
3347
Points
Gary Ross 08/22/13 - 09:05 am
6
3
What about the victim?

You think 20 years is a harsh sentance? The victim received an instant death sentance, and didn't do anything wrong. The victim probably suffered as well, before dying on the side of the road. Where is your compassion there?

I'm sorry, but an "accident" happens when people are doing things right, but something goes wrong that is unforseen or uncontrolable like a mechanical failure. This was definately controlable. Going fast enough on a dangerous road to kill a driver in another car is not an accident.

Riverman1
93859
Points
Riverman1 08/22/13 - 09:05 am
6
1
Minor Traffic Infraction

Slightly speeding, running a stop light or stop sign, illegal lane changes, following too close, illegal parking and other infractions are all minor traffic tickets that will take few points off your license.

Reckless driving, excessive speeding and drinking and driving are major infractions. I submit most of us have committed minor traffic offenses whether caught or not. People are not put in jail for 20 years if they run a stop light, sign or what have you. That was a minor traffic infraction. She did not commit a major violation.

What if a car is parked illegally and another car hits it and someone is killed? Twenty years?

Little Lamb
49133
Points
Little Lamb 08/22/13 - 10:32 am
4
1
Overreach

This appears to be another case of prosecutorial zeal, leading to overcharging.

Usually, when they overcharge, they are trying to goad the defense into a plea bargain. The defense attorney led his client down the wrong path when he called the prosecution's bluff and raised the stakes.

Riverman1
93859
Points
Riverman1 08/22/13 - 11:03 am
5
1
LL, I just don't know. Trying

LL, I just don't know. Trying to figure it all out, Annis could have believed she got away with drunk driving and reacted harshly because of that belief. Not exactly good law and not acting on the evidence. Someone suggested he was upset because the woman didn't cry in court and beg forgiveness from him. I imagine she is not the usual type defendant he deals with. Then again maybe Faithson, who says he's known him for 30 years, is right.

Little Lamb
49133
Points
Little Lamb 08/22/13 - 12:17 pm
3
1
Scary

The notion in your second sentence came to me several days ago, but I was too timid to post it. Nevertheless, the deed is done. She'll just have to count on good behavior in prison to lessen her time behind bars. It's a shame she had to pay this high a price for her attorney's bravado.

He was gambling with her freedom.

rmwhitley
5547
Points
rmwhitley 08/22/13 - 01:04 pm
0
0
Unless
Unpublished

ms. heath does something to cause her death, she will still be alive in 20 years. Ms. Renew will not.

Darby
29326
Points
Darby 08/22/13 - 02:29 pm
3
0
Twenty years does seem a little harsh.

Some have been known to get less for actual murder.

Maybe, on appeal her lawyer can get her a better deal.

nocnoc
49223
Points
nocnoc 08/22/13 - 06:14 pm
1
0
Facts as I understand them:

Drunk.
Driving a Vehicle impaired and under the influence.
Runs a Stop sign.
Kills a person.
gets 20 years for Vehicular homicide.

http://law.justia.com/codes/georgia/2010/title-40/chapter-6/article-15/4...

Georgia Law O.C.G.A. 40-6-393 (2010) Homicide by vehicle calls for:
(a) Any person who, without malice aforethought, causes the death of another person through the violation of subsection (a) of Code Section 40-6-163, Code Section 40-6-390 or 40-6-391, or subsection (a) of Code Section 40-6-395 commits the offense of homicide by vehicle in the first degree and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than three years nor more than 15 years.

Part D does allow for 20 years IF the person is a habitual offender or showed total disregard.

In short, he maxed her out. and then added 5 years.

She has two options that I see:
1.) Appeal the sentencing and/or trial.
2.) Wait a year do a adjudication of guilt.
Which allows a person so convicted may be suspended, probated, deferred, or withheld but only after such person shall have served at least one year in the penitentiary.

Little Lamb
49133
Points
Little Lamb 08/22/13 - 06:33 pm
1
0
Research

Thanks for digging into the lawbooks, NocNoc.

mrenee2003
2946
Points
mrenee2003 08/22/13 - 07:14 pm
2
0
Not a simple auto accident

She had been drinking, there was an open container in the car, and she ran a stop sign. She refused testing, which says A LOT. Even if one were to believe her two-beer story, the research is clear that even at BAC of .02 that your driving is impaired. An 18 year innocent girl is dead. Sorry, feeling really bad about it is not punishment enough. She needs to go to jail. Here's an alternative: When Morgan Renew's mother stops crying herself to sleep, Ms. Heath can get out of jail.

puppydog
228
Points
puppydog 08/22/13 - 07:34 pm
2
0
Riverman you are wrong ...

Riverman,
by your own words, " Reckless driving, excessive speeding and drinking and driving are major infractions."
I Agree. She WAS DRINKING AND DRIVING. By her own admission.
So your opinion that it is an excessive sentence for a minor infraction is a contradiction.
She admitted drinking 2 beers (almost everyone who has ever been charged with DUI claims they only had 2 beers). So I would doubt it was actually only 2. However, conveniently her "results" were somehow "lost" at the medical facility where her sister works where the blood alcohol test was sent to be performed. So before you declare this a harsh & unjust sentence, think of the facts (the facts, by the way, that the jury heard but you did not) & think of how you would feel if it was your family member was killed by her actions.

puppydog
228
Points
puppydog 08/22/13 - 08:01 pm
0
0
The charges: "She is being

The charges:
"She is being charged with failure to stop for stop sign, open container, DUI, homicide by vehicle first degree (felony), and six counts of serious injury by motor vehicle (felony)."
One 19 year old Nursing at USC in Beaufort was killed, 12 injured.

Casting_Fool
1175
Points
Casting_Fool 08/22/13 - 08:05 pm
2
0
I've driven Ridge Road many

I've driven Ridge Road many times. It's not difficult to see that stop sign after you turn that last corner, especially if you're traveling at the speed limit. It's glaringly obvious that you're about to enter an intersection, where you should normally expect some sort of sign or signal. Since the first report of this incident, I have been unable to understand how the stop sign was not seen and obeyed.

Riverman1
93859
Points
Riverman1 08/22/13 - 08:31 pm
0
2
Facts

Puppydog said, “She WAS DRINKING AND DRIVING. By her own admission.
So your opinion that it is an excessive sentence for a minor infraction is a contradiction.
She admitted drinking 2 beers (almost everyone who has ever been charged with DUI claims they only had 2 beers). So I would doubt it was actually only 2. However, conveniently her "results" were somehow "lost" at the medical facility where her sister works where the blood alcohol test was sent to be performed. So before you declare this a harsh & unjust sentence, think of the facts (the facts, by the way, that the jury heard but you did not) & think of how you would feel if it was your family member was killed by her actions.”

Let’s look at what you said and consider the FACTS. She was NOT found guilty of driving impaired. No matter what you feel may have happened at the hospital there is no evidence that she was driving impaired. You say everyone says they’ve had two beers, but that proves nothing. You say her sister works at the hospital, but that also proves nothing. How I would feel if a family member was killed is also not a fact. It was a bizarre and inappropriate sentence.

puppydog
228
Points
puppydog 08/22/13 - 08:31 pm
2
0
Austin Austin: "Kristine

Austin

Austin:
"Kristine Heath admitted to drinking that night, but she refused to sign a consent form for the alcohol test, and the MEDICAL blood level test she received at the hospital was lost."

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