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Archive for Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Jury finds Ramona Morgan guilty on all charges relating to last September’s accident

We’ve got our justice as much as we can get’

It was a day of justice for the families of two men killed in a construction zone along U.S. Highway 59. The woman accused of running them down is guilty on all counts.

September 9, 2008, 1:43 p.m. Updated September 9, 2008, 7:28 p.m.

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Ramona Morgan guilty verdict

It was a day of justice for the families of two men killed in a construction zone along U.S. Highway 59. The woman accused of running them down is guilty on all counts.

Ramona Morgan found guilty

Ramona Morgan was found guilty of killing two men and injuring a third when she drove her truck through a construction zone on U.S. Highway 59 south of Lawrence on Sept. 11, 2007.

Related document

Ramona Morgan court documents ( .PDF )

Two Kansas families had their sons ripped from their lives in an instant on Sept. 11, 2007, in Douglas County.

One year later, they received justice and some peace.

The families of Ty Korte, 30, and Rolland Griffith, 24, celebrated Tuesday after a Douglas County jury handed down two guilty verdicts of reckless second-degree murder. The jury convicted Ramona Morgan of striking the two construction workers with her pickup truck and killing them on U.S. Highway 59 near Pleasant Grove.

"We got justice," said Korte's father, Tom, of Seneca. "We haven't got Ty, but we've got our justice as much as we can get, and we're very happy for that."

"She took him, and she's going to pay for it," said Melissa M. Griffith, Rolland Griffith's widow.

The jury of eight men and four women deliberated for about nine hours before reaching three guilty verdicts, including one for aggravated battery and injuring a third worker, Curtis Delzell, of El Dorado.

Jurors asked District Judge Paula Martin several questions during deliberations, and on Tuesday morning they listened to a court reporter read back Morgan's earlier testimony. They also viewed a video interview of Morgan conducted by television reporters as she walked into Osage County's courthouse for a first appearance.

The length of the deliberations and the questions made prosecutors and family members nervous because jurors had options to convict her of lesser charges: involuntary manslaughter or vehicular homicide, a misdemeanor.

Jurors declined to comment after the trial, but prosecutors Eve Kemple and David Melton, spoke with some of them.

"It seemed like they all worked very hard and went over every piece of evidence very carefully and thoroughly," said Kemple, an assistant Douglas County district attorney. "That's all that we could ask them to do."

The case

The key to the conviction on the most severe charge was that jurors believed prosecutors proved that Morgan's actions were not intentional, but were far beyond reckless. Kansas Highway Patrol troopers had testified that Morgan accelerated up to 51 mph when she struck the two men.

Witnesses also testified that Morgan drove through the 2-mile work zone twice that morning, missing some workers while driving north and then making the fatal strikes while headed south.

"Just the fact that she did that in the way she did is what convinced them that she showed an extreme indifference to the value of human life," said Melton, a chief assistant Douglas County district attorney.

Kemple and Melton said the jurors focused on Ramona Morgan's statements. Many of them appeared to make up their minds when they heard a reading of her testimony, prosecutors said.

Morgan, who is 49 and from Chewelah, Wash., had traveled to central Missouri with her daughter, Sabrina Morgan, 27, to try to buy rural property on Sept. 10, 2007. But she was not satisfied with the property, and Morgan said that as she tried to drive back to Washington a gang of robbers was harassing her on the highways. She even alleged they shot at her vehicle and that police in Missouri would not help her.

Morgan said that when a construction worker started banging a stop sign on her truck she thought she was under attack again. Construction workers contended they were trying to get her to stop from driving through the zone a second time.

But Morgan said she hit the gas out of fear and continued south through the construction area. She contended that she struck orange barrels and not people.

Billy Rork, Morgan's defense attorney, had tried to convince jurors that Morgan could not see through her broken windshield, but Melton and Kemple said Morgan testified that she eventually stopped in Osage County, 25 miles later, because she recognized a law enforcement vehicle.

Morgan sat quietly when the verdicts were read. Sabrina Morgan sat in the audience and stared forward as sheriff's officers escorted her mother from the courtroom.

Rork said he would research and possibly ask Martin for a new trial based on some legal definitions in the jury's instructions. He said it was important for jurors to consider Morgan's "state of mind" during the incident. Otherwise, he said he would be interested to learn more about why jurors made their decision.

"That's their right. That's how they saw it," Rork said.

Lost loved ones

Korte, of Seneca, was on the construction scene that day as a Kansas Department of Transportation inspector. Griffith worked for Dustrol Inc. of El Dorado. His father, Mark Griffith Sr., also works for Dustrol, but he was not at the site that day.

"Justice was done. For the families. For the victims. For all the Dustrol workers. That's what this is about is justice," said Kemple, who had tried only one murder trial previously. "Nothing will ever bring back Ty Korte and Rolland Griffith, and the closest all these people who were dramatically affected are going to get to having peace is justice. That's the first step."

Martin is scheduled to sentence Morgan on Nov. 5. She faces a sentence of between nine and 41 years in prison on each of the second-degree murder convictions.

Her criminal history will affect her length of sentence. Morgan already has the Osage County felony conviction for eluding law enforcement after she struck the two highway workers. Kemple said Morgan also has other misdemeanor convictions in Washington state.

The victims' family members plan to return to Lawrence for the sentencing to advocate for their sons.

"They just don't know what they did to our family. He was just so special," Tom Korte said.

Rolland Griffith's mother, Kaylene, said, "I think what hurt the most was I didn't even get to hold him his last few minutes. Someday, we'll all be together, and that's what I'm waiting for now."

Rolland's wife, Melissa, was four months pregnant and lost the baby due to shock on the day she found out her husband had died.

After the trial on Tuesday, Melissa recalled telling her husband to be careful at work because he was accident prone.

But, what happened "was the farthest thing from my mind," she said.

Comments

Jaylee 5 years, 7 months ago

by the way, i almost cried today when i read the verdict. i followed this case often this year and was outraged by this woman.i dont think she deserves any less than the 41 years, but no matter how long she's in there, i fear for anyone in her numb, dumb, humdrum brain's path whenever she gets out just cause shell be sitting around getting more numb.

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Jaylee 5 years, 7 months ago

someone define premeditation for me? are we forgetting that the woman left the scene once after a near incident, then returned to finish the job?it may not have been planned for a long time, but it certainly appears that her actions were at least mildly thought out and she felt it best to return to that site and strike some workers with her vehicle.anyone care to debate on premeditation?

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bobberboy 5 years, 7 months ago

The Devil made her do it - she's not guilty !

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4thgencowgirl 5 years, 7 months ago

I am pleased Justice has been served. I only regret that it's my tax money thats going to keep her clothed, fed, and whatever luxury she is going to ask for. I think she ought to be put on a road crew and just see how freightening it is seeing traffic coming at you at all speeds. Eye for an Eye.

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farmgal 5 years, 7 months ago

My impression of her is that she is terribly self-centered and dumb. HER time was too important to be bothered by waiting in a traffic line for road construction. A very self-important person. I think it's shameful that she is going to put these families through more judicial processes by appealing her case. She should be happy that she's not getting the death penalty--own up to her wrong, apologize and do her time.

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pissedinlawrence 5 years, 7 months ago

There was three deaths, Rolland Griffith's unborn child. That baby would have been born...

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compmd 5 years, 7 months ago

I wonder how many people are praising the jurors for finding her guilty of the charge of murder, and how many are praising the jurors for finding her guilty because she killed people. These are subtly different.Given the facts of the case, it looks like justice has been served.

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tangential_reasoners_anonymous 5 years, 7 months ago

KorteFriend: "God bless the jurors! ... Her criminal history alone precludes pity, it's like a story book leading to this incredibly inhumane act that should be punished to the fullest degree allowed." Bless the "beasts" ( and the children ) .

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KorteFriend 5 years, 7 months ago

God bless the jurors! As many have noted here, if you knew the case, this verdict was expected. But all too often, what you know in life as right, is not always what you should expect. Korte and Roland went to work on the 5th anniversary of one of the greatest atrocities in this country's history. I am sure, as we all were, reflecting on those that were needlessly lost and praying for the protection of the people that fight to keep us safe. September 11th '07, senslessly proved again, the overlooked threat that our friends, brothers and sisters face every day to make sure that the roads we all travel are safe!Not once did this person show any remorse, or admission, for her actions on September 11th, 2007. I personally, do not understand how she could face anyone and deny what happened here, let alone the family. This person is not crazy, she had the piece of mind to explain her side of the story in many varied and deceitful ways. I see no reason to extend any pity on this person during sentencing. Her criminal history alone precludes pity, it's like a story book leading to this incredibly inhumane act that should be punished to the fullest degree allowed.

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tangential_reasoners_anonymous 5 years, 7 months ago

"It was a day of justice for the families of two men killed in a construction zone along U.S. Highway 59. The woman accused of running them down is guilty on all counts."Sorta anticlimactic, that "justice."A word: "guilty."A sentence: "She faces a sentence of between nine and 41 years in prison on each of the second-degree murder convictions."Another paragraph, added to the din: mine.[ fade to black ]

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Meryl Carver 5 years, 7 months ago

Exactly Isense. I don't think that she shouldn't be punished--she should be. As jayhawkbarrister said, her punishment will depend, at this point, on where her criminal history places her on the sentencing guidelines grid. She was found guilty, and--potential mental health issues aside--on it's face it seems like the crime she was charged with fit her actions. I have no problem with any of that.I get upset when people start saying things like "lock her up and throw away the key" or (as one commentor specifically said) "get a rope". There's no place in any civilized society for a lynch mob.

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coltrane 5 years, 7 months ago

very sorry for the victims & their families.their lives were torn out of the book that would have been the story of their time together.

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coltrane 5 years, 7 months ago

If this woman thought someone was chasing herwhen she committed this horrific carnage --- you've got to ask the question - who else did she run over and when?

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macon47 5 years, 7 months ago

as they say in chicagowhy waste your moneyhiring a crooked lawyerwhen it is cheaper to bribe a judgethe legal system is a bigger embarrassmentthat about anything we have in the good old usa

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jayhawkbarrister 5 years, 7 months ago

Let me correct a couple or erroneous statements made about sentencing in this case. First, the in-for-six and out-in-three is contrary to the "Truth in Sentencing" Act. TIS requires that convicts serve the time they are sentenced. Statuory good time, that USED to be up to 50% (hence the reference to 6-serve-3) is limited to a maximum of 15% of the sentence. So "Truth in Sentencing says a person who is sentenced to ten years has to serve 8.5. (How is that truth?)Secondly, in 1993 the sentencing guidelines, developed by the Legislature that you voted or not voted for, took away judges discretion, with the exception of 6 statutory factors. The sentencing guidelines are a grid system. One side of the grid is determined by the Legislature - criminal severity; the other side of the grid is determined by the defendant's criminal history. Find the criminal severity and criminal history - draw two lines and where they intersect is what is known as the grid box for that particular crime and criminal's history. The judge can only depart from the gird in compelling circumstances, which again are defined by the Legislature you voted for. If you hadn't voted for so many soft on crime legislators, more concerned with the cost of building new prisons, then we might see TIS, but I doubt it. Lastly, multiple crimes do not double automatically the sentence. The first conviction is the controlling sentence, then the 2nd conviction cannot exceed double, but the max time for the 2nd conviction is 50% of the controlling sentence. Sort of sounds like the great sale line, "Buy one, get the second for half price." Again this is all courtesy of your Legislature, more concerned with the price of prisons than justice, than any particular judge.So if you are gonna vote on the basis of what happens in this case, make sure you are voting in the right election. It is the Legislature that determines the crime, the severity, the history, the grid, the discounts for good behavior, and the limiters on multiple crimes. And when is the last time you heard a legislator say, "Vote for me, I am soft on crime."

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macon47 5 years, 7 months ago

i hope the families have some closureat least the jury wasnt made up of liberalswho decided she had an out of bodyexperienece because she didnt haveon her tin foil hator she was over taken from the fumesof the bakerwetlands.hey anything works if your a liberal

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oldvet 5 years, 7 months ago

If sentencing happens before the November elections, where Martin is up for re-vote, you can bet on a max sentence. If after that time... well... she does have a track record of soft sentences...

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hawkperchedatriverfront 5 years, 7 months ago

A gang of robbers were trying to get her in Missouri. How did she end up on 59 highway in Lawrence, Ks? Did anyone see the gang of robbers behind her. Were they dressed like pirates? She will see a gang when she goes to prison. A chain gang.

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lsense 5 years, 7 months ago

kublackbird says "As I said, what she did was horrible, but I stand by the idea that her punishment should be proportional to her crime. We should reserve life in prison for people who are truly the worst of the worst. This woman just isn't."And it is, hence the minimum and maximum sentences. And, given the circumstances of this case, I don't see that there's any reason to give her anything close to the minimum sentence. And honestly, who are you to judge who's the "worst of the worst?" Just because she didn't plan this days, months, or even years in advance doesn't make it any lesser of an offense, except in the sense that she isn't getting slapped with first degree murder charges for premeditation.

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tangential_reasoners_anonymous 5 years, 7 months ago

Py: "This was not a case of someone driving in the dark... It was broad daylight."Even on the brightest day this world has to offer,still it is the darkest of nights.( here, I'll say it for you... )Py: "wing-nut" Admittedly, it is an infatuation which I have, with the angels( especially the aspiring ones ) .

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Pywacket 5 years, 7 months ago

I was driving south on 59 at about 3:00 and noticed a crowd of people at the accident site--I wondered if a verdict had been reached. I'm glad the jury was clear-headed and returned the right verdict. As for a retrial, yes--people have the "right" to ask for one or to appeal, but as these things are handled nowadays, it's a travesty. There should never be "routine" or "automatic" appeals, or frivolous attorney-driven requests for retrials. This was not a case of mistaken identity. This was not a case of someone driving in the dark and there being reasonable doubt as to whether they realized they had hit anything--much less two human beings. It was broad daylight.Sometimes when a guilty verdict is reached, the attorney should do the honorable thing and just walk away... I suspect most retrials or appeals have more to do with the attorneys convincing their guilty clients that they'd have a chance of hoodwinking the next jury than about the attorney earnestly and honestly feeling that justice hadn't been done.

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somebodynew 5 years, 7 months ago

THANK YOU jury. It is obvious you took your job seriously and did this with a LOT of thought and debate. I appreciate your efforts.To The Families: you guys have met me, and although I have moved on and was not able to attend the trial, I was tied to this case and followed it as closely as I could from my new position. I do apologize for not being able to be there. I know in your spot there is (and may never be) any peace, but I hope this helps just a little. I hope you know that all of us who worked on this did all they could and truely wanted justice. And now maybe we can all breath again.

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roseprincess1980 5 years, 7 months ago

I for one, am glad that there was justice served for my cousin Ronnie. Maybe I would have felt bad for her if she would have pulled the truck over to check on them, not ran, apologized at any point in this last year, shown any remorse at all. But she showed nothing. I sat there and watched her during the trial, her expressions never changed. Not even when they showed pictures from the coroner.

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tangential_reasoners_anonymous 5 years, 7 months ago

OldEnuf2BYurDad: "... we can have empathy for the victims as well as for the convicted...."Let me second... er... third that, OldSoul.

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hujiko 5 years, 7 months ago

I am glad she is being brought to justice, our court system seems to be working proficiently.

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Meryl Carver 5 years, 7 months ago

Old Enuf said: "we can have empathy for the victims as well as for the convicted."Exactly!

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OldEnuf2BYurDad 5 years, 7 months ago

I'm surprised that there hasn't been more discussion around her mental state. Isn't it obvious that she's mentally ill? No remorse. Lame excuses. Unbelievable stories. Denial. She's not playing with a full deck.We don't have to choose: we can have empathy for the victims as well as for the convicted. She's clearly not well in the head.

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Meryl Carver 5 years, 7 months ago

Actually, I think I would.But regardless, basing punishments on revenge helps no one. In the event that this had been my brother or father, I would hope that rational heads would prevail so that justice could truly be done. As I said, what she did was horrible, but I stand by the idea that her punishment should be proportional to her crime. We should reserve life in prison for people who are truly the worst of the worst. This woman just isn't.

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OonlyBonly 5 years, 7 months ago

Don't be so glad happy yet - Martin isn't known as the "hanging" judge around Lawrence.

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Chris Ogle 5 years, 7 months ago

She killed two people, then left the scene without regard for anyone but herself. 40 yrs sounds good to me.

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Bob Forer 5 years, 7 months ago

Moderateguy wrote: LJW, please change the word "accident" in the title to this article. This was no "accident." It was deliberateWhile I am do not condone nor minimize the defendant's actions, one thing needs to be cleared up. Ramona was charged and convicted of reckless, and not intentional second degree murder. Here is the statutory definition of reckless second degree murder: "the killing of a human being committed . . . unintentionally but recklessly under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life." Intentional second degree murder, on the other hand, requires a specific intent to kill. It differs from First Degree Murder in that there is no requirement of premeditation. I believe the penalties for reckless second degree murder are not as severe as intentional second degree murder.(but I could be wrong) Finally, while I don't necessarily disagree with the many congratulations given on this thread to the jury, lets not forget to thank the several law enforcement agencies who, IMHO, opinion, did a bangup job on the case. And lastly, lets give some props to the prosecution team. Billy Rork is one of the best criminal defense attorneys in Kansas, and I was a little surprised that he was unable to convince the jury to convict his client on a lesser included offense.

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mightyquin 5 years, 7 months ago

I don't think people would be so harsh if Ramona had just shown some remorse for what she had done and not tried to make up that bs excuse that someone was after her!

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skinny 5 years, 7 months ago

I bet you wouldn't think so if it had been your brother or father!

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Ramsfield 5 years, 7 months ago

Seriously-do you all really think she is "the worst of the worst" deserving life in prison?_Yes!

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Meryl Carver 5 years, 7 months ago

Yes, two people died. Yes, that's horrible. But the complete lack of a sense of proportionality here just blows my mind. Seriously--do you all really think she is "the worst of the worst" deserving life in prison? Although (unless you were in the court room for the entire trial) none of us know exactly what evidence was presented, it seems apparent that this woman has some mental health issues. Further (given the fact that she was convicted of second degree murder rather than first) we can assume there was no evidence of premeditation. Both are reasons that tend to show some mercy is warranted.Clearly, Ms. Morgan does not need to be walking the streets, and clearly she should be held accountable for her actions, but this "getarope" mentality makes me a little ill.

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sharper 5 years, 7 months ago

Actually, mightquin, if she maxed out the sentences and ran them consecutively, she'd serve over 80 years. If she ran them concurrently, she'd just serve the 41 as the max.

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mightyquin 5 years, 7 months ago

She is facing a minimum of 109 months which is just over 9 years for each count and a maximum of 493 months which is just over 41 years. I hope Judge Martin maxes her out and has the sentences run concurrently.

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Moderateguy 5 years, 7 months ago

LJW, please change the word "accident" in the title to this article. This was no "accident." It was deliberate.I hope you're wrong Ragingbear. I wouldn't be surprised, but I hope you're wrong. This woman should spend every day of the rest of her worthless life behind bars.

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midwestmom 5 years, 7 months ago

Ms. Morgan has been found guilty of 2nd degree murder and aggravated battery. It shouldn't be called an 'accident' any longer.

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Ragingbear 5 years, 7 months ago

She will get 6 years. In 3 she will be eligible for parole.

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mightyquin 5 years, 7 months ago

"Ramona Morgan looked straight ahead showing very little emotion - as she had throughout the trial"What is with this woman? Does she still not care or realize what is happening?

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Fatty_McButterpants 5 years, 7 months ago

Yes, "animal," the convicted have a right to appeal, as well as move for a new trial. That doesn't mean that she will get the new trial. He sleeps at night because he believes that people in the U.S. are "innocent until PROVEN guilty" (ever heard that before) AND that those charged with a crime are entitled to a competent defense.One more thing: this isn't a new development within the U.S.

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institches 5 years, 7 months ago

thank you jurors for a job that was well done, thank you DA's office for presenting a good case to the jurors, thank you Highway Patrol and Sheriff's Department for the investigation to give to the DA. Peace to the families and coworkers of the vicitms.

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Animal__Lover1990 5 years, 7 months ago

Ok, and as to the new trial BS, I DONT THINK SHE HAS THE FRIGGEN RIGHT!!!! She took these peoples lives, and her attourney wants her to walk away and be able to possibly do it again!!! WTF??? anna know how that guy can sleep at night. So if they found her innocent she woulda walked away, not a single thing to family or even law enforcment can do, but if shes found guilty, she can try over and over again??? downhill goes the US every year because of this, THANK YOU GENIUSS GOVERNMENT!!!!

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Norma Jeane Baker 5 years, 7 months ago

tjhoops69 (Anonymous) says:Im happy with the verdict as well, but was there really ever any doubt that she would be found guilty?? Not in DG co!_______Yes, actually, I had some doubts since she was tried in Paula Martin's courtroom. But I'm pleased with the outcome.My thoughts and prayers are with the victims' families.

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tjhoops69 5 years, 7 months ago

Im happy with the verdict as well, but was there really ever any doubt that she would be found guilty?? Not in DG co!

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nurseinkville 5 years, 7 months ago

to the victims' families....i wish you peace.

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Ceallach 5 years, 7 months ago

Thank you to the jurors! Now let's hope the sentencing follows through.

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Aiko 5 years, 7 months ago

Well done! Get that piece of @#$!t off the streets.

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Animal__Lover1990 5 years, 7 months ago

That is what I am talking about!!! The guys on that crew NEEDED to here news like this! Im glad they found her guilty like she is. JUSTICE IS SERVED. I still think something else should have been done with the daughter >:( but you cant always get too lucky

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preebo 5 years, 7 months ago

I am still somewhat amazed that her attorneys didn't attempt to have the definition of 2nd degree read to the jury, in an effort to work in a lesser charge like vehicular-manslaughter or even worked to get her some plea deal with the prosecution, not that they would have given her one. I mean, they had to know that she would have no chance in a jury trial. If anything they should have asked for a bench-trial. With the amount of time she is looking at for TWO murder charges her attorneys will probably appeal. In any event, IMHO, justice was served here.

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Luxor 5 years, 7 months ago

Bless you, good women and men of the jury.

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autie 5 years, 7 months ago

Justice is served. peace to all those individuals and families that this has harmed.

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macon47 5 years, 7 months ago

the judge will give her a six month suspendedsentence, it isnt like she killed a baby bunny.

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S0uPnAzi 5 years, 7 months ago

As well as thanking the jurors (who richly deserve it, after giving up their time and effort), my heart goes out to the families of those killed and/or injured. There is nothing that can bring back your loved ones, but at least in this case, justice was done!

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logicsound04 5 years, 7 months ago

I was hoping for an image/photo of the woman's expression when the guilty verdict was rendered.She's been callous and cold throughout this process. I was wondering if the thought of serving a life sentence in prison might have cracked her apathetic, drug-addled brain-fog.

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ralphralph 5 years, 7 months ago

Are we allowed to say gittarope?

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justaverage 5 years, 7 months ago

Yes, there is justice! Thank you jurors!

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lsense 5 years, 7 months ago

Yes, a job very well done, jurors!

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another_concerned_parent 5 years, 7 months ago

A job well done. Thank you jurors, for your civil service committment.

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termtech215 5 years, 7 months ago

Justice is served for a change. Hallelujah!!! Good job jurors!!

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sharper 5 years, 7 months ago

Thank you, jurors, for working so diligently on the case. I hope the families have some closure with these convictions.

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