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Mother found guilty of eluding, acquitted on DUI

The Jones County News of Gray, Georgia

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Judge said state's recommendation was a blessing

A Jones County defendant found guilty of fleeing and eluding a police officer is spending 10 days in jail in addition to a year on probation.

Superior Court Judge Brenda Trammell left little doubt of her opinion of the importance of respecting and obeying law enforcement officers following her Oct. 29 sentencing of Marilyn Taylor at the conclusion of her trial.

Taylor was charged with DUI and child endangerment in addition to the fleeing and eluding charge. She was found not guilty of DUI and child endangerment.

The trial started at 1 p.m. Oct. 28, and the jury began deliberations at 11:40 a.m. Oct. 29. After asking two questions of the court, the jury announced it had a verdict at 1 p.m.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Wright Barksdale, and his recommendation to the judge for sentencing for the guilty conviction was 12 months probation with the first 10 days to serve in confinement. He also asked for a $1,000 fine and 100 hours of community service.

Taylor was represented by public defender Alice Button, who asked the court to reduce the fine to $500 because the defendant is unemployed.

Trammell listened to both lawyers and then spoke to the defendant.

"I'm extremely upset over the fact that an officer followed you with lights and siren for miles and you basically thumbedy our nose at him until you were ready to stop," she said. "I don't find any explanation for that. The officer had no idea what was going on and had to get out with his gun drawn. This was all because you did not obey. This case may be a misdemeanor, but it is a high misdemeanor."

Trammell stated that she does not take kindly to anyone who does not obey law enforcement.

"Frankly, I am amazed at the state's recommendation. You are sentenced to 12 months, and I don't have to tell you not to come before me for something like this again. You set a terrible example for the community and especially your child," the judge said.

Albeit perhaps reluctantly, Trammell followed the state's recommendation, and Taylor was immediately taken into custody.

"Understand you got a blessing from the state and be glad I didn't fine you $5,000. I want you to spend your community service at the SherhTs Department if possible so you can get to know these nice people," she said. "We can't have chaos, and that's what we would have if people did not obey law enforcement."

The first witness at the trial was Deputy Aaron Conner. He told the court the incident took place about l a.m. on Joy cliff Road Jan. 3. Conner said he was patrolling when a car came up behind him with its bright lights on. He said the car continued to follow close behind him with high beams lit, making it difficult for him to see, until he pulled over to let it pass.

At that time the deputy saw it was a silver Lexus, and he fell in behind it. When the car turned onto Shurling Drive, he called in the tag and activated lights and siren to perform a traffic stop. He said the driver did not pull over and instead continued for more than two miles before it stopped.

Conner said, when the car did stop, it ran through a ditch and up into the yard of the house on Bristol Drive. He said he was nervous and had no idea why the driver would not stop. He said he pulled his gun before telling the occupants of the car to get out and lie on the ground.

The deputy said he smelled the odor of alcohol on Taylor, but she refused a breath test. Sgt. David Little arrived at the scene to backup Conner and placed Taylor in the back of his patrol car.

The passenger in the car was Taylor's teenage daughter, who was also transported to the Sheriff's Department.

A video of the entire incident, including the more than two miles Taylor traveled before stopping, was played in court.

Button portrayed her client as a protective mother who was afraid her daughter would be left alone on the side of the road if she were arrested. The attorney went over pictures of Taylor's mother's home with Conner and contended that running through the ditch and parking in the yard was usual behavior for Taylor.

She asked the officer if her client was cooperative once she stopped her car, and Conner said yes.

The daughter was the next witness for the state. Barksdale asked her why her mother did not stop when the officer turned on his lights and siren, and the witness said it was because they were scared.

During Button's cross, the daughter said she was with her mother during their trip that day from South Carolina and her mother had no alcohol to drink.

Court adjourned for the day, and the daughter's testimony began again the morning of Oct. 29.

Barksdale asked the witness again if she had seen her mother drinking, and she said no. Then he asked her if she would be surprised that her mother did not deny having a drink, and she said that would surprise her.

Little was the next witness, and during his testimony, another video was played. This video was from Little's patrol car and included his questioning of Taylor.

"Have you been drinking?" the deputy asked.

"Not really," Taylor said. "I'm not saying not at all, but not really."

The state rested following Little's testimony.

The defense called the defendant's mother as its first witness. She said she was sleeping when her granddaughter was brought into the house by Conner. She said the officer shined a flash light in her face. The mother also told the court her daughter always parks in the yard.

The defendant did not testify and the defense rested, which meant the evidence was closed.

In her closing arguments, Button said her client made a lot of bad decisions that day, but her overriding concern was the safety of her daughter.

"The problem is we don't trust each other. Why did the officer pull his gun?" she asked.

The attorney said the state did not have sufficient evidence that Taylor was impaired when she was driving.

Barksdale said he agreed bad decisions were made, but they were all made by Taylor.

"Only one person is at fault here," he said.

The prosecutor said the DUI was proved by a combination of events and asked the jurors to look at the big picture. He said the high beams, not stopping, and running through the yard were all clues.

"The defendant refused the breathalyzer because she had been drinking. I have no doubt she was scared because she knew she was going to be arrested," Barksdale concluded.



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Original Publication Date: November 4, 2015



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