Blount County jury convicts Louisville woman of vehicular homicide
By J.J. Kindred | (email@example.com)
A Blount County Circuit Court jury convicted a Louisville woman Friday for vehicular homicide in the death of a Maryville man in June 2007.
The jury of seven men and five women found Margaret Laverne Riddle, 46, Kenway Drive, guilty of her involvement in the fatal accident that claimed the life of 46-year-old John E. “Gene” Younce Jr. of Maryville.
Riddle broke down in tears as the verdict was read. Younce’s family members were in the courtroom during the trial, but none were present for the verdict.
Vehicular homicide is a Class B felony, which is punishable by a prison sentence of eight to 30 years and a fine of up to $25,000, according to Tennessee state law. The jury did not impose a fine on Riddle.
Riddle had remained free on $50,000 bond after being formally arrested on a capias warrant on May 7, 2008. Judge David Duggan decided not to revoke Riddle’s bond, although the state requested she be taken into custody.
Duggan said since Riddle was consistent in her trial attendance and other related hearings, he decided to let Riddle remain free. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Oct. 21.
“I’ve never done this before in a case of this magnitude,” Duggan said. After a pause and deciding to not revoke Riddle’s bond, he asked her if she would keep a promise to show up for her sentencing.
“You have my word,” Riddle said.
According to an Alcoa Police Department report, on June 14, 2007, Riddle was traveling on Hall Road near the intersection of Associates Boulevard when she rear-ended a motorcycle driven by Younce, who was stopped at a traffic light. He was thrown from his motorcycle and landed on his head, breaking his neck.
Younce was wearing a helmet, but his injuries were so severe that he died a short time later at Blount Memorial Hospital.
Riddle reportedly told officers that she was approaching the traffic signal at the intersection when it changed from red to green, and she continued through because she didn’t see Younce stopped at the intersection.
According to the original report, officers indicated that drugs and/or alcohol may have played a role in the accident.
Both the state and defense gave closing arguments in front of the jury Friday.
Blount County Assistant District Attorney Kenlyn Foster wanted to convince the jury that Riddle killed Younce with her automobile while under the influence of a substance, and that she acted recklessly.
Foster rehashed the facts during the accident, including earlier testimony from Alcoa Police Sgt. Bud Cooper, who was on the scene. In reconstructing the accident, Cooper said that Riddle was traveling at 54.9 miles per hour, well above the 45-mph speed limit.
Foster told jurors that Riddle acted recklessly by speeding and neglecting to see Younce as the traffic light changed. Her blood alcohol level was at 0.15 percent, above the legal limit, he noted.
‘Tragedy, not crime’
Rob White, Riddle’s attorney, said in his closing argument that the accident was a horrible tragedy, but it did not mean a crime was committed.
“Did my client engage in criminal activity?” White said. “The video did not show Ms. Riddle was intoxicated. If there was adrenaline and the blood alcohol content was 0.15 or higher, she wouldn’t look intoxicated. She was with (Alcoa Police Officer Dustin) Cook (who administered a sobriety test on Riddle) for a long, long time. He didn’t smell alcohol on her breath, and there was no evidence to arrest her.
“If he thought Ms. Riddle was intoxicated, would he have let her drive off by herself?” White continued. “This was a tragedy, not a crime. See the video evidence.”
Blount County Assistant District Attorney Ryan Desmond gave the rebuttal to White’s closing argument.
“When people have had too much to drink and get behind the wheel, they create a very terrible consequence,” Desmond said. “Choices cause consequences, and the defendant made a terrible choice. An innocent man was killed because of that choice. This case demands responsibility.”