JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Luma Kajy died in February 2010 when her SUV went off the Buckman Bridge when she swerved to avoid a driver who cut her off in 2010.
That second driver, Sasha Pringle, was charged with DUI manslaughter and leaving the scene of a fatal crash. That October, she was convicted and sentenced to 30 years.
The Florida Highway Patrol said Pringle’s car did not hit Kajy’s SUV, but when she cut Kajy off, she swerved and the SUV hit the retaining wall and went over it into the river. The SUV was recovered hours later.
All of Pringle’s state appeals were denied, but a federal judge has thrown out Pringle’s conviction on the leaving-the-scene-of-a-crash charge only and ordered a new trial.
In the ruling, U.S. District Judge Harvey Schlessinger cited trial testimony that no one said there was contact between the two vehicles and Pringle was so impaired, “there was no rational way” for her to know an accident had occurred behind her. Schlessinger ruled that the instruction to the jury on a driver’s knowledge of a crash was a “misstatement of the law… so infected the entire trial that the resulting conviction violates due process.”
Schlessinger had harsh words for both the state trial judge and Florida’s 1st District Court of Criminal Appeals, saying “there was an extreme malfunction in the state criminal justice system which had substantial and injurious effect or influence in determining the jury’s verdict.” Pringle is still serving a 15-yr sentence for DUI manslaughter.
Pringle is due back in Duval County court next week for a status hearing on the order for a new trial.