On Thursday, June 12, Fox News reported that a woman received a sentence of 55 years to life in prison for hitting a pedestrian with her car and driving around a Los Angeles suburb with the dying man on her windshield.
The substance-abuse counselor, Sherri Lynn Wilkins, 53, was convicted earlier this year of second-degree murder, driving under the influence and hit-and-run. According to prosecutors, Wilkins’ blood alcohol level was almost twice the legal limit.
She struck Phillip Moreno, 31, in November 2012 as she was leaving a counseling center. Wilkins then proceeded to drive around the city of Torrance before other motorists swarmed around her car at a traffic light. They blocked her from driving away until police could arrive on scene.
Moreno was transported by ambulance to a local hospital where he died. Superior Court Judge Henry Hall stated, “Ms. Wilkins demonstrated an extraordinary callousness in fleeing the scene and trying to shake Mr. Moreno’s body off her car. This is a callous murder, not an unfortunate act.”
Hall sentenced Wilkins under the three strikes law in California using her long history of drug-related crimes. Utilizing the three strikes law tripled the minimum 15 years to life. According to Wilkins, she wasn’t drunk the night of the incident. She insists that she was “self-medicating” while she waited to have knee replacement surgery. She said that she consumed three single-serving bottles of vodka and a can of Budweiser beer and Clamato before she started driving.
Wilkins issued her first apology since the death of Moreno in the courtroom to the 16 family members in attendance. She described what happened as a “tragedy.” Wilkins went on to say, “I am sorry for the pain I caused you. It hurt so many people.”
Hall told Wilkins he considered the three strikes law seriously. “Ms. Wilkins is not what we normally see. She’s not a classic violent criminal. But you have to evaluate her history. She had an insatiable desire to become intoxicated.”
Deputy Public Defender Nan Whitfield, Wilkins’ attorney said that she would be appealing. “Because this case was so emotionally charged, the jury was unable to see the evidence.” Standing outside the courthouse, Whitfield said, “Nobody likes a drunk driver. Because she was a drug and alcohol counselor, she’s held to a higher standard.”
Deputy District Attorney John Harland said, “Everyone is a human being and you have emotions but this was not based on emotion.” During the trial, Wilkens testified that she never saw Moreno and that it was as if he fell from the sky.
Moreno’s friend Victor Gasset said on Thursday, “Phillip was 31. You were getting high longer than he was alive. Moreno’s brother, Tony told Wilkins that she deserved to “rot in prison the rest of your life.”
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