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Judge wants to look up law before accepting plea in vehicular homicide case

June 29th, 2013 9:40 am by Becky Campbell

Judge wants to look up law before accepting plea in vehicular homicide case

Rachel M. Proffitt

A vehicular homicide case delayed last year after a judge said he had trouble with accepting the plea agreement was back in court Friday, but again Judge Robert Cupp reset it so he could look up case law.

“I want to look at it,” Cupp said after hearing details of the fatal car crash and plea agreement.

Rachel M. Proffitt, 26, is charged with vehicular homicide by reckless operation of a vehicle that stems from a two-vehicle crash on Conklin Road on July 7, 2009.

The collision killed Misty M. Briggs, 22, of Jonesborough, who was a passenger in her husband Thomas’ car.

 According to Assistant District Attorney General Robin Ray, Proffitt fell asleep at the wheel, drifted into the oncoming lane and woke up just before her car hit Briggs’.

Thomas Briggs survived the crash. Ray said he agreed with the reduced plea for Proffitt.

The plea agreement between Proffitt and prosecutors would have her plead guilty by best interest to criminally negligent homicide. She’s already served six months in jail on the charge and her attorney, Don Spurrell, said he would ask for diversion and that the judge put Proffitt on probation.

Ray said after court that she would not agree to diversion, but offered the plea based on what she felt the evidence would show.

“The only thing we would be able to show at trial is she dozed off, woke up and realized she was in someone else’s lane and tried to correct,” Ray told Cupp.

Proffitt’s attorney, Don Spurrell, said his client had been up since 4 a.m. to go to Asheville, N.C., for methadone treatments, then drove back to Johnson City, took her husband to work and was on her way home when the crash happened.

Ray also said there were no impairing drugs detected in Proffitt’s system, so the methadone had no affect on her ability to drive.

“There’s no evidence that anything related to the methadone affected her driving,“ Ray said.

Cupp’s issue with the plea is due to the fact there was a death and Proffitt’s sentence amounts to one year.

“Somebody lost a life. They were doing what they were supposed to be doing and they were on their side of the road,” Cupp said. “It is what it is. It’s just (hard) trying to digest it,” he said.

The case was reset for Aug. 14, when Cupp will determine if he’ll accept the plea or not.

Proffitt is free on bond while the case is pending.

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