ABC 17 News confirmed Tuesday a Columbia woman convicted of involuntary manslaughter in a deadly DWI crash will get a new trial, according to a Missouri appellate court.
The state’s Eastern District Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Kelli Smith, whose lawyer said the jury in her original trial was given unclear information about what driving under the influence meant in her case.
Smith was convicted last December for driving the wrong way on I-70 in Montgomery County in 2012, and killing Thomas Sullivan II. The 35-year-old father of two was driving from Kansas City to his home in Wentzville in 2012, when Smith crashed head-on into his car.
Montgomery County Prosecutor Nathan Carroz said in a statement his office “will continue with the prosecution of this matter.”
Smith appealed the conviction, saying she was given a date rape drug and raped before the crash.
Presiding Judge Philip Hess wrote in the court’s opinion that the trial court improperly informed the jury on the definitions of “under the influence” and “intoxicated condition,” which the jury asked about during deliberations. Smith’s attorney, Jennifer Bukowsky, argued at trial that a date rape drug contributed more to her impaired driving that night than did alcohol, and that the Missouri State Highway Patrol did not properly store her blood sample for testing.
The omitted jury instruction reads, “If there was less than eight-hundredths of one percent by weight of alcohol in the blood of the defendant at the time a specimen was taken, you cannot find from this evidence alone that the defendant was under the influence of alcohol at the time that specimen was taken.”
“Given the foregoing evidence, a jury could have resonably believed that [Smith’s] BAC was actually below the legal limit ‘at the time when [the] specimen was taken,'” the court’s opinion says.
Last January, a judge denied a motion to get a DNA test entered into evidence in the case.
“I firmly do not believe she was guilty of being put in that situation on her own,” the juror said.
On Tuesday, the Montgomery County Prosecutor issued a statement, saying, “Our office has an ethical duty to not make any public comments about a pending case aside from what is available via public records. At this time, we are adhering to our ethical duties and refraining from commenting on the substance of this matter.”
To learn more about the case, check out the related content section of this article for all of the stories ABC 17 News has done on the case.