Drunk driver who killed two asks to be set free

Interesting look back at a 2004 DUI fatality; and sentencing. Here’s a news story from the crash which the DUI, red light running driver nearly wiped out an entire family,  killing 2 and seriously injured another, the fourth family member escaped with only minor (physical) injuries:

10-year-old dies from injuries in April (28,2004) crash:  “police said a drunken college student in a Chevrolet Cavalier ran a red light in north Scottsdale and broadsided the family’s van… Christopher Linton, a 26-year-old Tempe man working his way through college as a slot machine repairman, walked away from the crash. Police said a breath test showed his blood alcohol level at 0.178 — more than twice the legal limit. He had also taken the prescription drug Paxil, used to treat depression. Police said they believe it may have increased his inebriation.Linton was indicted earlier this month on charges of aggravated assault and manslaughter.”

Back just before the driver’s sentencing Laurie Roberts wrote this column ; explaining the unusual move of rejecting a deal, and instead pleading guilty to all four count (2 manslaghters, an aggravated assault and an endangerment) — presumably hoping for a lighter sentence. Instead he got 9 years for each of the two fatalities to be served consecutively (which does actually seem unusual), and nothing for the aggravated assault (which is usual, when other homicides are invovled) or the endangerment (which is a low-level crime).

In any event, the driver is making a request to the clemency board; which is the topic of today’s (3/7/2014)  Laurie Roberts column; he is hoping to get his sentence reduced. Right now, he is set for release no earlier than early 2019, when 85% of his 18 year sentence is up.

Other historical minutia, nowadays prosecutors seem to (routinely?) bring 2nd degree murder charges against impaired drivers who kill. Also noted a little after this particular crash, there was some legislation that didn’t go anywhere that would have stiffened penalties against DUI drivers who kill children, SB1123.

The criminal case

The case number is CR-2004017912.  Here is the sentencing minute.There is an unusually enlightening case minute written by the Honorable Ronald Reinstein which was the rejection of Linton’s petition for Rule 32 PCR (post conviction relief). The background was explained as follows:

Defendant entered a plea of guilty to all charges in the indictment on 10/15/2004. Defendant pled to the indictment rather than to the plea agreement offered by the State so that the Court could have full discretion within the sentencing ranges provided by law. Defendant’s potential sentence in effect was no less than seven and no more than 60 years in prison. Under the plea offer, the range of sentences available to the Court would have been between fourteen and eighteen years in prison.

A historical fact was noted, that since 1985 the default (my term, not a legal term) method of sentencing for multiple crimes is consecutive; though the Court always had discretion to choose either concurrent versus consecutive:

…prior to 1985, Arizona law required that sentences be concurrent for multiple counts, unless the Court expressly directed otherwise. If the Court imposed consecutive sentences it had to state the reasons for such on the record. In 1985 the legislature changed A.R.S. § 13-708 to require the Court to impose sentences consecutively “unless the Court expressly directs otherwise, in which case the Court shall state on the record the reason for the sentence.”

In any event, Judge Reinstein stated that he typically is going to sentence concurrent for something like auto theft, versus consecutive for homicides. He notes that in the case at hand, the sentence was consecutive for the two deaths, versus concurrent for the two injuries.