Nothing has changed.
But let me take a moment to talk about upcoming possibilities and past actions. Caveat: I’m stepping into the legal weeds. Or at least legal ankle high grass. So, sorry for any mistakes and if something isn’t clear ask questions and I’ll go find out the answers.
One question I keep getting is why Meekins’ plea deal is for a longer sentence than what is on the table for Haynes when Haynes was the one driving the car that killed Jason. The answer has to do with criminal histories. Just like you can get “driving points” for moving violations in most states, you can get “criminal points.” These points are only acquired through criminal convictions above a certain level. So, driving on a revoked license doesn’t accrue points, but possessing drugs does.
In addition, the state of Minnesota has fairly tight sentencing limits. In some states, the judge determines the punishment and can assign zero to maximum at their discretion. That isn’t true here. Here, there is a recommended sentence with a 15% margin around it. So, for a recommended sentence of 58 months, a judge can dole out an actual sentence of 52-64 months, or 15% on either side of 58 months. The recommended sentence is influenced by the criminal score, so if someone has a higher score, the sentencing box goes higher.
Haynes has something like double-digit driving offenses but none of them is significant enough to have given her criminal points. Or rather, she has exactly one criminal point. Because Haynes has only one criminal point, her sentencing limits are ten months higher than someone with no criminal history. The plea deal offered is the recommended sentence for her criminal point and crime.
Meekins on the other hand, had a criminal score of 42. Because of his high criminal score, the sentencing limits are significantly higher. The plea deal he took was at the bottom of that heightened limit.
Just to add another layer of complication to this, it is also possible for people to serve their sentences simultaneous or consecutively. Meekins is currently serving 4 simultaneous sentences; one for Jason, one for me, and two unrelated drug offenses. By doing this, he is essential serving the longest sentence and the rest get ignored. If the sentences are served consecutively, then they are served one after the other and the individual spends much longer in prison. In Meekins case, this was the difference between a minimum of 92 months and a maximum potential of 147 months for the two cases I’m familiar with. Part of the plea deal is that he is serving them simultaneously.
If you weren’t already getting ready to swear about some things, let me ruin that streak for you.
Haynes hasn’t taken the plea deal on the table. She has a week, if that’s what she decides to do. She also might not, which means that on Monday she will plead innocent to killing Jason and we will go to trial.
There is no denying that she drove the vehicle that collided with mine and killed Jason. There is no denying that she ran a red light to do it. There is no denying she was going well over the speed limit. On the outside, it seems like insanity to try to plead innocent. Here is my understanding of what could happen.
There are three levels of killing people, according to the legal system. At the bottom, you have manslaughter. Manslaughter is what the rest of us would call accidental. You are driving within the speed limit, hit some ice and slide through an intersection, killing the pedestrian on the way. This is a really shitty, terrible situation, but it is still accidental. It was not something you could have predicted. The next level is homicide. In a homicide, you could have prevented this outcome. Say, you were speeding and ran a red, for instance. You knew that this was a bad idea, you chose to do it anyway. At the top is murder. That’s the one where you go out with the intention of killing this specific person.
If we go to trial, she can try to convince a jury that she took actions that were reasonable and consistent with what anyone would do in her circumstances. If she does that, she will get her sentence shifted from homicide to manslaughter. To do that, she has to argue that she was in fear of her life and was running away. It is possible she could convince a jury of that, given the strong domestic violence tones in this case. On the other hand, there is video of her getting in her vehicle and chasing Meekins’ vehicle out of the parking lot. It’s a lot harder to argue that you were fleeing for your life when you started out giving chase.
On Monday, we find out which way she is going to plead. The ball is in her court. It’s been spending a lot of time there.