Mothers fight to eliminate shock probation in fatal DUI crashes - News, Weather & Sports

Mothers fight to eliminate shock probation in fatal DUI crashes

One of the cars at the involved in the accident (Source: WAVE 3 Archives, Nov. 1985) One of the cars at the involved in the accident (Source: WAVE 3 Archives, Nov. 1985)
Carolyn Scharf Carolyn Scharf
Anne Scharf (Source; Carolyn Scharf) Anne Scharf (Source; Carolyn Scharf)
Debbie Moskwa Debbie Moskwa
Kelly Bennett (Source: WAVE 3 Archives) Kelly Bennett (Source: WAVE 3 Archives)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - It's the last gift two mothers are trying to give their children, trying to overturn a law they think is robbing them of justice in their deaths. The moms are asking Attorney General Jack Conway to declare Kentucky's shock probation law unconstitutional. They have a very personal reason for doing so.

"At least three cars could go across but the 19-year-old drunk driver was coming toward Big Rock and Anne was a passenger in a little Karmann Ghia," says Carolyn Scharf says of her daughter's November 14, 1985 death. "Her whole upper torso was just mutilated in the crash, the head on crash ... They are wanting to say that killing somebody while driving drunk is not a violent crime, but I would suggest that they read my child's autopsy to find out how violent her death was."

Then came the real shock - the driver of the car, Kelly Bennett, pled guilty to second degree manslaughter and was sentenced to five years. Then she got shock probation.

"What about my child's right to life?" Scharf said. "Some judge here in Jefferson County 25 years ago said her life was worth 63 days in a Jefferson County jail."

So it's easy to understand Scharf's passion. Somehow it hasn't gotten her anywhere. She's now resorting to policy.

"I may not be brilliant or a lawyer, but I can read," she said.

Year after year, Scharf and Debbie Moskwa, who also lost a child in a DUI crash where the driver later got shocked, have tried to change the law to make DUI deaths ineligible. It's never passed the General Assembly. Now she's gotten two state lawmakers to ask the attorney general to declare the law invalid under Kentucky's Constitution. 

"It says, 'absolute and arbitrary power, denied,'" Scharf said. "Shock probation is un-appealable by anybody for any reason. The judge has the right to say anything they want to and nobody can say anything about it. Isn't that absolute? And arbitrary?" 

While she is not sure of her chance of success, Scharf said her passion will not fade. Scharf said she believes in second chances and in shock probation, just not where someone has died. Scharf also thinks the range of punishment for fatal DUIs is anywhere from six months to life and it should be up to a jury - not a judge - to decide what's appropriate. 

Conway's office said only that its "opinions branch" is reviewing the request.

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