Society

Man Mistakenly Given Probation Instead Of 10 Years In Prison

| by Jared Keever

A Texas district attorney is appealing a jury’s sentence of a drunk driver convicted of causing a crash that cost a young boy his leg. 

Lynn County District Attorney Michael Munk has filed an appeal with the Seventh Court of Appeals, arguing that the jury meant to give the man more than probation when they sentenced him last month. 

The jury found 48-year-old Sammy Carl Williams guilty in August of two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, one count of intoxicated assault and two counts of failure to stop and render aid. 

The convictions are the result of a June 2013 accident in which Williams, while driving drunk, slammed into another car. The accident severely injured 10-year-old Nicolas Mata Jr. who had to be flown by helicopter from the crash site and later had a leg amputated. 

"They tried to save his leg. He was missing some bone; it had flown out of his body," his mother Gloria Hernandez told KCBD.

The jury intended to sentence Williams, who had a previous drunk-driving conviction, to 10 years in prison. Instead, they mistakenly checked a box on the verdict form that probated the 10-year prison sentence. The result: Williams was sentenced to 10 years of probation and six months in the Lynn County jail. 

Jurors said they didn’t realize the mistake until the judge began reading the sentence to the court. 

“When the judge started reading the sentencing, all 12, we all kind of started looking at each other and thinking wait, wait, I don't think this is what we meant,” said Jenni McClelland, the jury’s forewoman. 

The jury believed, that by checking the box, they were adding probation to be served after Williams was released from prison. 

“Our intent was jail time, followed by community supervision,” she told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.

“I called the bailiff to come over and said this is a mistake, but it was too late, it was done,” she said.

Munk requested a mistrial after McClelland told the bailiff the sentence was not as the jury intended, but Judge Carter Schildknech refused. 

Munk’s office now has affidavits from each juror saying they intended to sentence Williams to time in prison.

“I did not intend the verdict I turned in. I was confused on the wording of the verdict form. I messed up and wanted to send the man to prison,” reads one of the written statements. 

The district attorney has vowed to get the lenient sentence overturned. 

“We’re working around the clock — this is our number one priority right now,” Munk said.

Williams is currently in the Lynn County jail serving the six months attached to the current sentence.

Sources: KCBD, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

Photo Source: KCBD