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Diatribe: Deadly Texting Driver Receives Only Probation.

Misti Risner

Misti Risner

Texting while driving is a very serious problem on highways all around the world.  With more and more frequency, laws are being created and courts are making rulings that impact drivers who are distracted by smartphones and other electronic devices in an effort to keep us safe from one another.  I, personally, cannot text and drive … particularly during my commute to and from the office, where there is a portion of my journey during which I receive no cellular service … because I don’t wear my reading glasses when I drive.  I will confess to picking up my glasses and my iPhone when I’m stopped at a red light every once in a while but as a matter of practice I never text while my car is in motion because I simply can’t.  I consider myself fortunate that I can easily avoid the distraction.

On March 17, 2013, Misti Risner of Lawrence County, Tennessee, was driving an SUV eastbound on Highway 64 at about 5:30 p.m. when she failed to stop and ran into the back of a Harley Davidson motorcycle pushing it into the westbound lane where it collided, head-on, with another vehicle.  Two people, Clyde and Carmie Newton, on the motorcycle were killed and two others in the westbound car were injured.  Authorities reported that the time stamp on Risner’s cell phone showed that she had posted a message to Facebook while driving, only minutes prior to impact, and that there was a partial message that she had been in the process of typing.


A Grand July indicted her in July of last year on two counts of reckless endangerment and two counts of vehicular homicide.  She chose to enter guilty pleas for one count of reckless endangerment and two counts of criminally negligent homicide … lesser charges.

On Monday, August, 25, 2014, when her case came before a judge, her defense team requested that Judge Jim T. Hamilton grant Risner “Judicial Diversion” mean that she remain on probation throughout her sentence.  The prosecution, representing the family of the deceased couple who were also in attendance in the courtroom, requested that the maximum sentence be considered while indicating that their main request was that probation not be granted.

On Tuesday, Misti Risner was charged with two counts of vehicular homicide and two counts of reckless endangerment and sentenced to only four years of probation.  Incredibly, Judge Hamilton indicated that, if Risner stays out of trouble during that time the charges will be wiped from her record!

Clyde and Carmie Newton

Clyde and Carmie Newton

Apparently, the judge chose to treat the death of Newtons like any other traffic accident when, in my opinion, it wasn’t an accident at all … Ms. Risner didn’t accidentally use her cell phone to post on Facebook.  But when she did, the death of two people was the result.  Texting while driving in Tennessee is against the law.  Killing people while texting while driving should be REALLY SUPER against the law.  The message that this judge has sent to the community is WRONG.  The family left behind by the victims is devastated and they are on a mission to stop others from texting and driving.  We all should be.

There are people in the United States prison system serving life sentences for shoplifting and selling marijuana yet Misti Risner will serve only four years probation and have a clean record after being found responsible for the death of Mr. and Mrs. Clyde and Carmie Newton.

Are you outraged by Misti Risner’s sentence? Or do you think the judge was right … it was just another traffic accident?


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Copyright © 2014


From → Diatribes

  1. Your quote says it all, “It wasn’t an accident at all … Ms. Risner didn’t accidentally use her cell phone to post on Facebook. But when she did, the death of two people was the result.” When you add that most texts can wait (at least until a stoplight, but until you get to your destination), 23% of accidents is such a manageable result. No texting laws would likely halve that rate. But, this was not an accident and if someone insists that it is, I would say it was an accident waiting to happen.


    • I think this judge was way off base. I can’t help but wonder what sorts of behind-the-scenes conversations took place during this trial.

      Texting laws can’t be enforced any more successfully than drunk-driving laws. If only common sense was actually common.

      Thanks for reading!


      • I saw the dog’s mother comment. Did you see the MythBusters show where they contrasted drunk driving while driving while on the phone or texting. You drove worse when texting than when intoxicated. This was all done with a driver’s ed course with cones.


        • I have not seen the MythBusters episode that you mention but I have heard stories about how drivers who have been drinking actually pay MORE attention and focus more closely on their driving than those drivers who might be texting, eating, gabbing or fiddling with their radios. I believe anyone who thinks they can take their eyes off the road for the amount of time it takes to send a text message yet still safely operate a vehicle is delusional.


          • True. We all have our own stories to tell of minor distractions and dangers avoided. A car going 60 mph will go 88 feet in 1 second.


  2. Consider me outraged.


  3. thedogs'mother permalink

    If I guzzle down several alcoholic drinks and crash into someone – is it just another traffic accident?
    How about if I scrambled my brain with a bunch of illegal drugs – same thing? There are things you are not allowed to do when driving and with good reason.


    • I can’t help but wonder who she knew, or was related to, in that small town to get such a light sentence. The message that this judge is sending to the community is dangerous!


  4. Tracie Newton Adkison permalink

    Our family is outraged. Judge Hamilton sent a very bad message when he granted her judicial diversion. She has never shown any remorse for her actions and actually thinks she is the victim of this horrible tragedy. Our judicial system failed us and it failed our parents. She will get to wipe this off her record like nothing ever happened while we live with the pain of never being able to see them, talk to them, or tell them we love them. Our lives will never be the same because she made a choice to text and drive. I hope to have contact information soon so people can write letters on our parents behalf because this is not over for our family. Thank you and please continue to share our story.


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