Anatomy of a Michigan DUI Murder Conviction

michigan-dui-murder
Michigan Dept. of Corrections

It’s taken a while for media outlets to stop referring to DUI crashes as “accidents.” They are, after all, the result of a deliberate decision to drink and drive. But rarely is causing death while driving drunk ruled in court as murder.

It does happen, though.

Recently a Detroit jury convicted a 51-year-old woman of second degree murder for killing a man with her pickup truck. She was drunk, speeding, and driving recklessly when she collided with a pickup truck, killing 72-year-old Bennie Sims last march. She fled the scene afterwards.

Her actions got her convicted of 8 crimes, including second degree murder. As a result, she will not emerge from prison until at least 2036.

Second degree murder is murder which is not premeditated. Some people are convicted of this crime when they intend to do serious harm, but kill instead. However, in this case the cause was different: the defendant’s depraved indifference to human life.

Adding up the Crimes

The offender, Kellie Nichole Stock, was convicted of 8 crimes on March 20th.

  • Driving with a suspended license and causing serious injury
  • Operating while intoxicated and causing serious injury
  • Reckless driving causing serious impairment of body function
  • Fleeing a police officer resulting in serious injury
  • First-degree fleeing and eluding resulting in death
  • Driving with a suspended license and causing death
  • Operating under the influence and causing death
  • Reckless Driving Causing Death

So many charges were made because some were what are called lesser included offenses – lesser crimes that are included within greater ones.

The upshot is that Stock will spend at least 19 years in jail for her crime.

License Suspension Doesn’t Work

Few drunk driving cases are as extreme as this Michigan DUI trial. But it sometimes takes an extreme case to highlight the nature of drunk driving, and why it’s such a stubborn, difficult-to-fight crime:

License suspensions don’t work. More than half of suspended drivers take to the road despite having no license. It’s just a piece of paper to those offenders.

Suspension is a particularly feeble measure against drunk driving. An intoxicated person will tend to care even less about whether his or her license is valid.

Drunk driving is a violent crime, one that sometimes ends in injury and death.  Consequences, whether fines, jail, or ignition interlocks (devices which prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking) must be swift and consistent.

It may surprise you to learn that the “average” drunk driver is not too different from the one who now sits in Jail in Michigan. Those typical drivers are impaired, unable to control the vehicle, unable to make good decisions, and are many times more likely to crash into another vehicle or pedestrian than a sober one. They many not flee the scene, and perhaps their license is currently valid, perhaps not.

But they’re out there, with nothing to stop them but well-made and well-enforced laws.