A woman who killed a pastor while drunk and high on drugs will only serve a one year prison sentence – in part because the pastor's family asked the judge to show mercy.
In May of 2011, University of South Carolina student Mary Reames ran a red light in Columbia when she struck and killed 71-year-old Billy Dean Randall of Lexington County. In sentencing last week, the family asked the judge to give her the smallest sentence possible. Pete Strom is Reames' defense attorney.
"What we did here is what I learned in Sunday school and not in law school," Strom says. "And that was to ask for forgiveness when you did something wrong, instead of keeping your mouth shut, which is what they teach you in law school."
Reames had faced a maximum 25-year-sentence. Her father first approached the pastor's family in tears a day after the accident to ask for forgiveness. Since then, Strom says the families have attended church together and have helped Reames complete a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Reames was also sentenced to 500 hours of community service and five years of probation with monthly drug and alcohol testing. If she tests positive for drugs or alcohol during that time, she will be sent to prison for 15 years.
"When you've got families who are of strong faith on both sides and there's a need for healing, then the lawyers need to think about that instead of isolating both sides and then parking them for 18 months while all of us work on other cases until it's time to go to court," Strom says. "And there's nothing but anger and fear building on both sides, I just don't know how healthy that is. It's probably OK for the court system but I just don't know that it's good for the victim or the defendant."