Parents want commission to look at judge's ruling in DUI case

Published: May. 11, 2012 at 2:43 AM EDT|Updated: May. 11, 2012 at 3:27 AM EDT
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Rebecca Johnson
Rebecca Johnson

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The parents of two young men killed by a drunk driver plan to file a complaint against a retired Jefferson Circuit Judge.

Retired Judge Geoffrey Morris sentenced Rebecca Johnson---who originally plead guilty to drunk driving--- to just 45 days in jail after she violated her probation in the deadly DUI crash.

"I'm devastated and very surprised, totally devastated," said Tammy Cantrell-Williams. Williams is the mother of Justin Cantrell. Thursday, she was having a tough time on what would have been her son's 27th birthday.

"I shouldn't be here at a cemetery and you shouldn't have to bury your son because of a drunk driver."

Justin and his best friend Ben McIntosh were killed in 2006 when Johnson crashed the car they were in.

Now, the boys parents plan to file a complaint to the Judicial Conduct Commission in Frankfort and it all stems from a warning made by Judge Morris during Johnson's original 2007 sentencing.

He said to Johnson at the time, "If you violate any terms of the probation department, then I'll send you to the penitentiary for 20 years."

When Johnson did violate her probation this January after getting arrested on public intoxication and possession charges in Carroll County, Morris did not send her to prison for 20 years. Instead last week, he sentenced her to 45 days in jail.

"He did not hold to that at all," Cantrell-Williams said, "and I want to know why."

"It's absolutely ridiculous," said Johnson's attorney Bart Adams of the parent's complaint. "The judge has done nothing to violate the code of professional responsibility."

Adams says Morris' stern warning at the initial sentencing is something he hears from judges all the time as they try to keep the defendant on the right track.

"The judge cannot make up his mind at the time of sentencing with what he's going to do about a probationer that comes in front of him," Adams told WAVE 3 News.

Morris told us, the family has every right to file a complaint but, he wants them to know, he considered everything in this case before making his decision.

Morris tells WAVE 3 News, this time, he had to consider that in four and a half years Johnson hadn't gotten into any trouble and the fact that she's living with a brain injury.

Still, Cantrell-Williams fears Johnson's recent actions will eventually have the Judge regretting his decision.

"I am scared to death," she said, "That's why I'm fighting so hard, so that some other family would not have to go through the life sentence of aching pain that we have to go through every day."

Judge Morris tells us, he also heard testimony from Johnson's employer about her mental health and her difficulty in understanding her work process. Morris says putting her in prison just didn't make sense.

The Judicial Conduct Commission will consider the complaint. They could issue a reprimand if the panel feels it's warranted.

Copyright 2012 WAVE News. All rights reserved.