Whitney Howard

Whitney Howard was accused of crashing into a group of cyclists one evening in September 2016. 

The Georgia Court of Appeals affirmed a woman’s conviction Wednesday of first-degree homicide by vehicle and other charges after she crashed her car into a group of cyclists and killed a University of Georgia graduate student in 2016, according to a press release from Athens-Clarke County’s acting district attorney Brian Patterson.

On Sept. 12, 2016, Whitney Howard was driving her Jeep under the influence of a combination of six prescription drugs with her 2-year-old daughter in the car when she failed to maintain her lane on Athena Drive and struck UGA student Ashley Block, who was riding a bicycle, as well as two other cyclists. Block died at the scene, and one of the other cyclists was seriously injured.

When police arrived, they noticed Howard appeared impaired. A field sobriety test conducted at the police department and a toxicology analysis of her blood suggested she was “abusing” prescription drugs, which rendered her unsafe to operate a motor vehicle, according to the release.

On Oct. 31, 2017, a jury found Howard guilty of two counts of first-degree homicide by vehicle, six counts of serious injury by vehicle and one count each of driving under the influence of drugs, failure to maintain lane and endangering a child while driving under the influence. Judge Eric Norris sentenced her to 25 years in prison and 6 years probation.

Howard filed a motion for a new trial on Dec. 4, 2017, and an amended motion on June 4, 2019. Norris denied Howard’s request for a new trial on Oct. 23, 2019. Her latest appeal was on a claim of ineffective counsel, according to the release.

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(1) comment

wjabbe

As a teenager decades ago, I rode my bike all over the city of Pasadena, California, a city much larger than Athens with much more traffic then. I also had a large paper route where on Sunday I had to return to the station to load more papers on my L-bar. I never had an accident let alone one due to improper use of prescription drugs. This was the unlucky day for the student from Minnesota. It is very very sad. Surely there is some responsibility with the doctor prescribing all these drugs and the authorities to seek to prevent a patient from driving so such a tragic accident might be avoided. Why not automatically revoke a drivers license instantly in such cases? It appears no one even talked to this woman about such a possibility. Also this accident likely happened so quickly the bike rider had little time to take defensive action. This also shows that unlikely events happen every day. Winfield J. Abbe, Ph.D., Physics citizen for 54 years.

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