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
94430
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Riverman1 08/22/13 - 08:35 pm
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Casting Fool, I've driven the

Casting Fool, I've driven the road too, although I admit it has been a few years. I found it tricky. Let me ask because I really don't know the answer to this. Were the warning strips there before this accident or were they installed afterwards?

Casting_Fool
1175
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Casting_Fool 08/22/13 - 08:43 pm
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It's been a while since I had

It's been a while since I had reason to travel Ridge Road, mostly to do work at a client's lake house. I don't know when the accident happened, and it's been at least a year since I was last up there. That said, I don't remember rumble strips coming up to that intersection, but I could be mistaken. I don't drink, I drive at the speed limit and am familiar with that stretch of road, so I really don't need rumble strips to warn of that stop. Wish I could remember, sorry.

Riverman1
94430
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Riverman1 08/22/13 - 09:08 pm
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Puppydog, she said she had

Puppydog, she said she had two beers sometime earlier that night. She was acquitted of DUI less safe which means DUI even without having a blood alcohol .08 and higher. So there is just nothing there. The medical blood test being lost was not her fault, but that wouldn't be a legal blood alcohol test anyway because there is no chain of custody of the sample as the officer, MyFather, pointed out previously.

Casting Fool, the letter writer says the strips were added after the accident, but it seems to me they were there years ago when I last drove the road. Not a real important point except to note that the county or DOT thinks that road and stop sign are dangerous enough to install them.

Casting_Fool
1175
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Casting_Fool 08/22/13 - 10:33 pm
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Like I stated, I don't

Like I stated, I don't remember the rumble strips. I'm also not very sympathetic towards the lady. Drinking, speeding, killing another human being, injuring others. I think that people do foolish things like this that result in tradgedy, because the punishment isn't fierce enough to frighten them away from a bad or series of bad decisions. An 18 year old's life is ended, she will never finish school, fall in love, maybe have children. Her family will never have her companionship, love and comfort. 20 years in prison is a small price to pay for having been responsible for her death. I believe that chances are that the lady will serve much less time than that, isn't that correct?

leebraxjr
272
Points
leebraxjr 08/22/13 - 10:45 pm
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Trial by Jury

This trial was settled by the Jury, not the judge. The sentence fits into the many roads our American Justice System travels everyday.
This is not related, but the young guy that was just found guilty for Cocaine trafficking in Hephzibah got 10 yrs probation because of his daddy's status. Other people would have been sentenced to 10 yrs in prison even if it were their first time.
This young lady received 20 yrs, and there has been people that were guilty of the same crime as she did and were sentenced to life without the possibility of parole or the death sentence.
The lesson to this case is no one will ever be satisfied when it comes to truth and justice.

Riverman1
94430
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Riverman1 08/23/13 - 11:05 am
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Let's cut to the chase

Let's cut to the chase here. Consider someone driving who runs a red light, hits another vehicle and kills someone. There is NO EVIDENCE of any kind of impairment and no evidence of careless driving other than running the light. Should this person be sent to prison?

I don't believe so, not even for a day. Sure it's a civil matter since the passenger in her car died, but even that's not cut and dried because the passenger did not put on her seat belt. I mean it's a horrific accident where a beautiful young woman died, but taking it out on Heath is wrong.

I have read every possibility and rumor anyone has written, but I still see nothing. A police officer who has investigated many of these type accidents and has made many comments here feels as I do. If there is MORE, please let me know.

macktaylor
29
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macktaylor 08/23/13 - 02:10 pm
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Riverman

You completely miss the fact that the jury decided that she was driving recklessly hence they decided she was guilty of a felony (first degree vehicular homicide). If the jury decided that she just ran a stop sign they would have convicted her of misdemeanor vehicular homicide. This was a jury decision. They decided it was a felony and not a misdemeanor.

Riverman1
94430
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Riverman1 08/23/13 - 03:33 pm
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MackTaylor, well maybe so,

MackTaylor, well maybe so, but tell me how they determined she was driving recklessly? Was she convicted of reckless driving or running a stop sign? Running a stop sign doesn't meet the reckless driving requirement? Reckless driving is a whole other thing. Does every minor infraction that ends in an accident carry with it a reckless driving charge?

My complaint with Annis is he should have kept all this in mind, including when it came to the sentence. Is that 20 year sentence justified by Annis because she didn't look sorrowful enough? Do you agree with the sentence because she didn't look sorry even though she had read a very apologetic statement?

The usual sentence for a non-DUI accident that results in a fatality is 18 to 36 MONTHS. The guy who was three times the legal limit who ran the light and killed the young girl driving the other car on Washington Rd only got 15 years.

How do you feel about Annis as a judge? One of the commenters said he has known him for 30 years and Annis is out to lunch. Now here is your opportunity to praise him publicly and let him know how much you admire him. I understand you have to practice in his courts, but I won't hold it against you.

macktaylor
29
Points
macktaylor 08/23/13 - 04:59 pm
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I've already said that Judge

I've already said that Judge Annis has been a fair judge. I didn't hear everything that came out at trial so I can't fashion a guess as to why he sentenced the way that he did. I also said that I cannot understand how the jury arrived at their decision. You can get felony vehicular homicide by either establishing that there was either impaired driving or someone was driving recklessly. I didn't see either in this case. The jury decided that she was driving while distracted, but driving while distracted does not or should not always amount to reckless driving. Reckless driving is driving in reckless disregard of people or property. It should under the law amount to more of a negligence akin to recklessly discharging a firearm. When you commit the act you should know that someone could die as a result. The jury decided that it was reckless driving, not the judge.

The judge's sentence should reflect the will of the people. The will of the people is reflected in the jury's verdict. Typically you will see someone get a sentence of about 7 years if they plead guilty to something like this. The judge can consider when someone pleads guilty to an offense that they are accepting responsibility for their conduct and even then it is typical they get about 7 years (give or take). If you do not accept responsibility (that is, plead guilty) you should expect to receive a harsher sentence and that is what happened.

Any type of prison sentence on this case is going to be harsh for someone like Ms. Heath. I understand that and hate that it happened to her. That risk was likely discussed between her and her attorney and the decision to go to trial would have been hers and not her attorney's.

With all that said, the judge could reconsider his sentence and it is likely that her attorney will petition to court to reconsider that sentence. At that time, the judge could reduce the sentence.

Also vehicular homicide are at the highest level on the parole grid. That is she should expect to serve more than 65% of her prison sentence. This case is tragic on so many levels. I hope that the judge reduces the sentence when he gets the opportunity, because Kris is truly a kind and is definitely remorseful about this.

mrenee2003
2946
Points
mrenee2003 08/23/13 - 10:30 pm
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Jury

Ironically, some of the same people crying over this verdict were, only a few weeks ago, arguing that all the people unhappy with GZ's acquittal needed to just shut up and move on. Court proceedings were over and the jury had spoken. So, take your own advice: move on.

Riverman1
94430
Points
Riverman1 08/24/13 - 12:11 pm
0
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Thanks, Mack, for the honest

Thanks, Mack, for the honest comments.

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