Woman Acquitted Of Auto Manslaughter, Guilty Of Dwi

April 26, 1991|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Staff writer

Acquitted of automobile manslaughter, Catherine Anne Johnson wept quietly yesterday as she awaited sentencing for driving under the influence.

Circuit Judge Lawrence H. Rushworth said, "One cannot view the photos and see the blood dripping from the door panels and not realize how serious this matter is. The mixture of blood and tears and cranberry juice and vodka were deadly."

Cranberry juice and vodka, along with pineapple juice, are the ingredients in a drink witnesses called a "mattress" -- Johnson's drinkof choice, testimony in a two-day trial showed. Rushworth yesterday found the 29-year-old legal secretary from Glen Burnie guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol, negligent driving and two minor traffic charges.

However, the judge found the woman not guilty on charges of automobile manslaughter, vehicular homicide while intoxicated and driving while intoxicated.

After hearing Johnson tearfully apologize and say she has not had a drink since the March 17, 1990 accident that killed 42-year-old Rose Marie Davis, the judge gave her a60-day suspended sentence, fined her $600 and placed her on three years' supervised probation.

Under the judge's order, Johnson, of the 6400 block of Grafton Garth Court, will have to report to the state's Drinking Driver Monitor Program.

A test after the accident showed Johnson had a blood-alcohol level of .094 percent -- just below the legal standard of intoxication of .10 percent. The judge also said the prosecution had failed to prove the elements necessary to convictJohnson of automobile manslaughter and vehicular homicide.

The accident occurred about 1:30 a.m. at the intersection of Telegraph and Old Telegraph roads near Baltimore-Washington International Airport. Testimony showed Johnson was driving a Nissan Pulsar southbound on Old Telegraph Road when she ran a stop sign and, making a right turn, crossed the center line on Telegraph Road and hit a Nissan pickup truck. Davis, of the 800 block of Abbey Court, Pasadena, was a passenger in Johnson's car.

Davis died six days later at University Hospitalin Baltimore of pneumonia and a bruised lung.

Assistant State's Attorney Kathleen Rogers reminded the judge that three other people, including the driver of the pickup, had been seriously injured in the accident.

Johnson sustained a broken leg, broken nose, broken teeth andcuts to her knees and face in the accident, said defense attorney Jerome M. Levine.

During yesterday's hearing, Rushworth called arecess to allow Johnson to calm herself. When the hearing resumed, she told the judge, "I want to say I'm sorry.

"It changed my life completely, and I regret it," the woman said, adding she does not believe she ever had a drinking problem but nevertheless has remained sober since the accident.

Levine noted that the verdict reached by the judge was identical to a plea offer he made and prosecutors rejected. He said Johnson had no prior criminal or driving record.

"She has been an exemplary citizen until this occurrence," Levine told the court.

Before announcing his sentence on the driving under the influence charge, Rushworth said, "It may be the maximum for this particular count, but it is not harsh considering the circumstances."

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