Judge speaks out about decision in DUI case

Rebecca Johnson
Rebecca Johnson
Judge Geoffrey Morris
Judge Geoffrey Morris

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The family of two young men who were killed by a drunk driver still want answers. We are learning more from the Jefferson County judge who sentenced Rebecca Johnson to just 45 days in jail after she violated her probation.

"There's no question in my mind that I did make a promise that if she violated the terms of her supervision, I was going to send her to the penitentiary," said Acting judge of the 10th Division in the Jefferson County Judicial Center, Judge Geoffrey Morris.

Judge Morris told WAVE 3 he says that to 90% of the people he probates. Years after Rebecca Johnson's 2007 sentencing, Johnson did violate those terms after being arrested in January on charges of public intoxication and possession.

"It wasn't a serious violation of her supervision," said Judge Morris. "It was a violation of her supervision, but it wasn't like she'd committed another felony. Not that she had been driving while drinking. There was some reasonable explanation for the way she acts because of her medical conditions."

Johnson wasn't sent to prison. Instead, she received 45 days in jail.

"We're mandated by statutes to look at alternatives to incarceration," Judge Morris said. "To send her to the penitentiary for 20 years, is just in my opinion, wouldn't justify the expense of keeping her in the penitentiary. At $25,000 a year, plus all of her medical problems that she currently has. So, I thought, if I give her 45 days in jail, that was sufficient for the violations that she had."

Tammy Cantrell-Williams' son, Justin and his best friend, Ben McIntosh were killed in 2006 when Johnson crashed the car they were in.

"I think he's trying to put a price tag on criminals," said Cantrell-Williams. "Sending them to prison when there's no price tag we can put on the boys."

Judge Morris said he stands by his decision. He backs that up with several specific reasons. Even so, Cantrell-Williams tells WAVE 3 she does not agree with the judge's decision.

"By no means should she get a get out of jail free card," Cantrell-Williams said. "We had a medical professional from the jail come. They evaluated the circumstances. And said they could meet every need that she needed met in the prison system."

Judge Morris said to the families "I'm terribly sorry that this had to happen and I'm terribly sorry for all of the families involved in this. It's just been a terrific tragedy and unfortunately, we can't bring people back to life."

Cantrell-Williams said she and McIntosh's family will file a complaint with the Judicial Conduct Commission.

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