Supreme Court Reviews Road Crew Death Case

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

Clark County prosecutors asked the state Supreme Court on Monday to block a new trial a judge ordered for Jessica Williams, the driver found guilty in the deaths of six teenagers on a road crew in southern Nevada.

Deputy District Attorney Bruce Nelson said Chief Clark County District Judge Michael Douglas "violated every rule of statutory construction" in setting aside Williams' six counts of driving under the influence of a controlled substance.

But John Watkins, Williams' attorney, said Douglas was right in holding that the marijuana metabolite found in Williams' blood wasn't included on a state list of prohibited drugs.

"I can't even believe (Nelson) is here," Watkins said during the Supreme Court's oral arguments on the case, adding that Williams was "convicted of conduct that's not prohibited by law."

High court justices asked several questions of Watkins during the arguments, but he said after the hearing that the facts of the case should overcome any judicial skepticism. "They all know I'm correct," he added.

If the court's ruling, to be issued at a later date, goes against Williams, Watkins and co-counsel Ellen Bezian said they're prepared to file a federal court appeal.

The state Supreme Court previously upheld Williams' conviction, but Douglas then ruled that the metabolite found in her blood wasn't listed as a prohibited drug by the state Board of Pharmacy.

Prosecutors argued that the Supreme Court's first opinion upholding the conviction dealt with the issue of marijuana metabolites, stating that their presence showed marijuana use. They added that Douglas was barred from hearing the latest defense claim since the Supreme Court already ruled.

Williams was convicted of six counts of driving under the influence of a controlled substance, one count of using a controlled substance and one count of possession of a controlled substance.

The 23-year-old former exotic dancer, sentenced to 18 to 48 years in prison, maintained she had used marijuana before the accident but was not impaired when her car, traveling about 75 miles per hour, went off Interstate 15 and plowed into the youngsters who were part of a juvenile detention crew cleaning up the side of the freeway. She said she fell asleep at the wheel.

Court documents said that Williams was returning to Las Vegas from the Valley of Fire on March 19, 2000, after staying up all night using marijuana. She also admitted using the drug Ecstasy on the evening prior to the collision.


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