Local News

Should licenses be suspended in death-by-motor-vehicle cases?

Posted August 5, 2008 6:24 p.m. EDT
Updated August 6, 2008 10:13 a.m. EDT

— A woman whose parents were killed in a head-on collision in Franklin County wants tougher penalties for those facing charges in death-by-motor-vehicle cases.

Marbeth Holmes' parents, James Preston Holmes, 65, and Mary Charles Holmes, 65, of Louisburg, were killed June 27 when a pickup truck crossed the center line along U.S. Highway 401, colliding with Holmes' Corvette.

The truck's driver, Louis Mahler Joyner, 21, of Louisburg, is charged with misdemeanor death by motor vehicle.

While his case is pending, he is allowed to drive. Under state law, licenses are only suspended for motorists charged with driving while impaired.

"We were horrified and stunned," Holmes said, of finding out that Joyner still has his license.

She wants drivers charged with death-by-motor-vehicle to have their licenses suspended for a minimum of 30 days.

Former federal prosecutor Kieran Shanahan says such a change would mean that state legislators would have to agree the charge is enough to remove someone's driving privilege.

He called it an uphill battle.

"You don't, on the one hand, want to just punitively single somebody out," Shanahan said.

Sen. Doug Berger, D-Franklin, said he would be receptive to hearing Holmes' proposal, which she plans to take to lawmakers after the general election in November.

"I think it's something that's certainly appropriate in some death by motor vehicle cases," Berger said. "It may be appropriate in all of them."

Holmes said it's not about revenge but doing what she can "to affect positive change," something she says her parents dedicated their lives to for years.

"They were the kind of people you'd call, (for example) if you needed someone to drive you to the doctor because you were unable to go (otherwise)," she said.