Back in 2014, I wrote about Sherri Wilkins, 55, a California substance-abuse counselor who hit a man with her vehicle and drove with him in her windshield for two miles. Wilkins was drunk at the time.
In 2014 Wilkins pleaded no contest to second degree murder and two California DUI counts. However, she was sentenced last week to 25 years to life in prison.
Wilkins was found guilty at trial in 2014 on similar charges, but on appeal, the conviction was reversed because her entire criminal history was wrongfully admitted at trial. The court of appeals concluded that the jury could have been prejudiced by the evidence. Prior to the appeal, Wilkins had been sentenced to 55 years to life in prison.
Following the appeals court’s reversal, prosecutors refiled charged. That is when Wilkins pleaded no contest in the current case.
In 2012, Wilkins drank three shots of vodka and a beer in her car before driving. While driving home through Torrance, California, Wilkins hit 31-year-old Phillip Moreno. Wilkins drove more than two miles with Moreno embedded in her windshield before other motorists stopped her at a stop light. Moreno later died at a hospital.
Law enforcement said that Wilkins’ blood alcohol content was about twice the legal limit of 0.08 percent about an hour and a half after the collision. Wilkins said that Moreno jumped out in front of her car. Her attorneys argued that, because she drank immediately before driving, that her blood alcohol content had not yet risen to 0.08 percent at the time of the collision.
Typically in California, when a person kills another person while driving under the influence and the driver has not suffered a prior DUI, they will be likely charged with manslaughter. However, when a person has suffered a prior DUI and subsequently kill a person while driving under the influence, they will be charged with second degree murder and face a sentence of 25 years to life in prison under the Watson Murder Rule.