On Tuesday April 5, 2011, it would have been Donna Kennie’s 62 birthday. She most likely would have celebrated by having dinner with her children and grandchildren. It would have been a quiet, yet joyous celebration with much laughter and happiness.
Instead, on her 62 birthday, her children, grandchildren, family and friends sat in a court room listening to the victim impact statements being read. Her seven-year-grandson got up and spoke about how he missed his nanny. Her nine-year-old grandson talked about the day he found out she died and the confusion and fear he felt and how he will miss that she won’t get to see him grow up. Her eleven-year-old granddaughter broke down in court as she explained how devastated she’s been. Her eighteen-year-old grandson talked about being in the car that fateful day, what he saw, and how horribly impacted he’s been and will be for the rest of his life. Her thirty-four-year-old daughter talked about how she’s been turned into an angry and bitter woman since her mother was killed in a car accident and how she feels like she’s not able to be the warm, carefree mother to her own children that she once was. Her forty-year-old son stood and shared with the court how deeply he has grieved his mother, missed her, and how filled with anger he’s been as well as what it’s been like to watch his son struggle with the trauma of the experience. And I, at thirty-six, got up and told the court how her death was like reliving the death of my father and how robbed, I, along with everyone else, feels. Those were seven victim impact statements of the fifteen submitted that were read aloud to a court full of people. The judge, the court reporter, everyone cried openly as they were read. The emotions filled the room.
When Trent was allowed to address the court, he did so with a trembling voice and tears streaming down his face:
“I am so sorry. If I could trade places with her, I would.”
Trent, if we could have you trade places with her, trust me, we would too!
He was sentenced to three years in a federal penitentiary and banned from driving for five years. He will likely be eligible for parole within six months and will quite likely be released. In Canada, that’s what you get for getting drunk and killing someone – six measly months in jail.
The judge actually apologized but said he was bound to work within the constraints of our justice system and right now, that’s the jail sentence for this crime. It doesn’t matter what the maximum sentence is, what matters is the court of appeals in New Brunswick gave that sentence to someone else in a similar circumstances and since it’s the highest court, all other judges our bound to follow suit.
He also said more than once that although three years wouldn’t likely seem long enough to us, that it was unlikely there was any jail sentence out there that would be fair in our minds.
I found this to be a total cop-out. Actually, yes, there is a sentence out there that each of us felt in our minds was fair. For me, if he had been sentenced so that he SERVED ten years in jail, that would felt more fair to me. For Lisa and Cindy, perhaps it was more. For Scott, he said serving 15 years would have been more in line with what he wanted but in the end, what was most important to him was that he was found guilty, and held accountable, the sentence meant little.
I am at a loss to express how I feel. On the one hand, I know that Trent serving more time in jail won’t bring Mamma K back nor will it “heal” him in any way. Actually to the contrary, he’s likely to come out worse. It’s a “lose lose” situation. But at the same time, I am filled with anger and contempt that this man decided to put the lives of innocent people in his hands when he got behind the wheel of a truck impaired. I have no doubt he “thought” he was fine – most people who drive impaired “think” they are fine – that’s the problem – they AREN’T! I know he didn’t set out to kill a beautiful woman on that day but his ignorance to the consequences of his decisions and choices is unacceptable! It cost a truly innocent, beautiful, and remarkable woman her life. His decision and choices COST a life. There has to be an adequate consequence to that!
What do we need to do to get people to stop drinking and driving? What do we need to do to get people to stop being negligent when driving either through drinking, drugs, texting or whatever? What do we need to do so that people start to think that every single person on the road driving is their mother, father or child so they start to take the responsibility of driving seriously?
I don’t know. I am at a loss. How does this continue to happen?
To read the newspaper story, check out: http://telegraphjournal.canadaeast.com/actualites/article/1395835
To read my victim impact statement: Hartford_Natalie_VIS_March_2011.
If you are just tuning in, catch up on the whole story with some related posts:
- Part I – the accident
- Part II – Trial
- Part III – Prosecution Blooper
- Part IV – Expert Testimony & Medical Record Admissible
- Part V – Guilty Verdict
- Part VI – Writing a Victim Impact Statement
And just in case you are interested in getting involved (if you live in Canada): answer this Call to Action (for random breath testing, which will prevent these accidents from happening in the FIRST place).