Judge: Senate Bill 105 is now signed into law
By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on July 16, 2012 1:46 PM
It won't bring Kristie Jernigan Lee back to her children's bedsides.
It won't give Jacob Allen Floars a renewed shot at experiencing adulthood.
Superior Court Judge Arnold Jones knows this.
But when, late Thursday afternoon, he received a call from the governor's office -- when he was told that Senate Bill 105 had been signed into law -- he considered it a victory for two Wayne County families that, because of drunken driving, will never again be complete.
"I'm just tickled to death," Jones said. "I can't wait to share this news with them."
He knew just how much it pained Kristie's family to watch the man charged with the death of their loved one receive what they considered an "unfair" sentence.
And he was convinced, despite the fact that he handed down the maximum punishment possible, that something more should be done.
So he invited them -- and members of Jacob's family -- to meet with local legislators, the district attorney and sheriff.
"We talked to them about our concerns, and at that time, they kind of pledged their support to helping us in whatever way they could," said Kimberly Smith, Kristie's sister. "They said they would help us."
Only a few months later, Gov. Bev Perdue signed Senate Bill 105 into law -- and in one stroke, established much more severe penalties for those convicted of taking lives while drinking and driving by revising the definition of malice necessary to prove second-degree murder as being "based on an inherently dangerous act or omission, done in such a reckless and wanton manner as to manifest a mind utterly without regard for human life and social duty."
Jones called the decision a victory -- not just for Kristie, Jacob and their families, but for the state.
"What hit me about (the case involving Kristie) is here is somebody who tragically dies. It affects her husband, her children, her church and her community, and all this guy can get is 44 months in prison? That didn't seem quite fair to me," he said. "(This law) is the right thing to do. It will at least double the punishment and I think that's significant. That's a lot more time.
"I want people to think about what they do before they put themselves in these situations, and hopefully, if they know the punishment is more strict, they'll think twice."