The case against Kelly Cox, the motorist accused of driving drunk, with an amazing 0.28%BAC, and killing cyclist Chip Henry, was set for trial today, January 23, 2012. Numerous subpoenas had issued and the Henry family assembled for the ordeal that criminal trials are for the families of those killed. Instead of starting trial, though, they discovered that last minute plea deal negotiations were underway. Today, a few hours later, Kelly Cox plead guilty to the key crime – Aggravated Vehicular Homicide – and other crimes.
The case against Kelly Cox was strong. As you will recall from my earlier posts here, here and here, on May 23, 2011, Ms. Cox was driving her big Pacifica on Rapids Road in Geauga County with two children in the car when she rear-ended Judge Henry’s bicycle. She was later tested for alcohol and the 0.28%BAC figure was revealed. After a bit of time the indictment was handed down and included numerous charges, including Aggravated Vehicular Homicide.
The case seemed to drag through the court system, as many serious cases do. Ms. Cox filed a Motion to Suppress the Blood test results and tried to have the case moved to a different jurisdiction. The court said No.
The case came up for trial on Monday January 23, 2012 – a fairly quick trip through the system, really. On the morning of trial instead of calling witnesses, the various parties huddled together to discuss resolving the case without a trial.
From the family’s perspective, I’m sure there were many conflicting issues. Of course, you want Ms. Cox to face up to what she did – to have the evidence presented and have the world see the strength of the case against her. You want her claims and denials to be shredded by the testimony and the testing and the science. You want the public to see that your family member did NOTHING wrong – NOTHING to cause this horrific crash – that his death was solely, completely, undeniably caused by the drunken misbehavior of Ms. Cox… but… a criminal trial is an awful thing. Your deceased son, or brother, is criticized and blamed for causing his own death – “experts” from the defense try to pin the blame not on Ms. Cox but on the cyclist. Other “experts” try to argue that Ms. Cox wasn’t really drunk or impaired, or that the cops screwed up the evidence or the investigation. The family has to sit and listen to all of this, and hope the jury isn’t befuddled by the aggressive defense tactics…
So it’s a trade-off … these plea deals. The family trades a little to avoid the pain and horror of going through it again… step by step… photo by awful photo… You trade certainty and being “done” to avoid the risk of a bad jury verdict or years of appeals. In the end, Judge Henry’s family decided to accept the “deal” – here, the deal was solely about the extent of the possible punishment, not about avoiding liability. As today’s newspaper article said: “… Cox answered “guilty” to each of seven charges named in an August indictment: two counts of aggravated vehicular homicide and two counts of endangering children, and one count each of driving under the influence and reckless operation of a vehicle….” You can read the plea agreement here.
Sentencing will be set for sometime in February.
So how can YOU get involved?
Well, one of the things that a judge can consider in sentencing is the impact of the crime on the “community.” Victim impact statements are generally accepted for sentencing. Some courts accept input as to the impact of a crime on the “community.” Here the cycling “community” should speak out and provide the court with its view of how drunk drivers who kill or maim cyclists “impact” the cycling community.
A recent law journal article discussed the merits of victim impact statements. They provide information to the sentencing judge or jury about the true harm of the crime—information that the sentencer can use to craft an appropriate penalty. They may have some therapeutic aspects, helping crime victims recover from crimes committed against them by opening up about the harm they have suffered. Such statements may help to educate the defendant about the full consequences of the crime, perhaps leading to greater acceptance of responsibility and rehabilitation. [Here, the defendant continues to argue that she had “one drink” and that she thought she “hit a deer.”] An impact statement can create a perception of fairness at sentencing, by ensuring that all relevant parties—the State, the defendant, the victim and “society”—are heard.
YOU can let the court know YOUR views on an appropriate sentence for Ms. Cox. According to the article cited above “… Cox faces a mandatory prison sentence of two years minimum and a maximum nine and a half years….”
You can send your letters to
Geauga County Prosecutor
Attn: Cindi Wellman
231 Main Street, Suite 3A
Chardon, Ohio 44024
Or they can be faxed to her at 440-279-1322
I hope Judge Henry’s family can find some peace through this process. Nothing can bring back the one you lost. No jury verdict results in the waving of a wand and bringing that person back to life. Our system of justice is designed to dig out the Truth and punish those who violate our criminal laws… that’s all… there’s no provision in the law for helping the victim get their life back… I know that Judge Henry’s family will remain in the thoughts and prayers of ALL Ohio cyclists …