Murder by DUI: Sherri Lynn Wilkins, a substance abuse counselor who drove two miles through Torrance with a critically injured man on her windshield, was convicted this week of second-degree murder, drunk driving and hit-and-run charges. The Associated Press reports that Wilkins’s blood alcohol level was nearly twice the legal limit for driving when she struck and fatally injured 31-year-old Phillip Moreno in November 2012 on Torrance Boulevard.
A Matter of Human Dignity
The Deputy District Attorney said this case was mostly about “human dignity.” It is simply not right to “tolerate someone who does not pull over when they see someone on the windshield,” he told reporters after the verdict. Wilkins, 52, was an addict before she became an alcohol and drug counselor. She said she had been “self-medicating” while waiting for knee replacement surgery and had consumed three airplane-size bottles of vodka, a can of beer and Clamato before she started to drive on that fateful day.
Prosecutors said during the trial that the force of the collision punched a hole in the car window and Moreno lost his shoes and pants, but Wilkins still did not stop, render aid or call 911. It was passing motorists who saw the bizarre scene, stopped Wilkins’s car, held her at the scene and called the authorities. Wilkins faces 45 years to life in prison. She also has two prior serious felonies on her record making her subject to California’s three strikes law, which could send her to prison for life.
Holding Wrongdoers Accountable
Motorists have a duty to stop and remain at the scene of a car accident. They also have the duty to exchange information with other parties involved in the crash and most importantly, obtain assistance for injured victims. The least a driver can do is pick up his or her cellphone and call 911 so that the injured person or persons can get help right away. As a Torrance hit and run lawyer who represents hit-and-run and DUI victims and their families, I’m relieved that the driver was apprehended and brought to justice. In the end, it’s accountability that really matters.