Drunken driver kills drunken man at Shaver Lake; result is year in jail, five years probation

The Fresno BeeJuly 9, 2014 

A Shaver Lake woman who was drunk when she ran over a drunken man walking in the middle of Highway 168 was sentenced Wednesday to a year in jail and five years of probation.

Morgan Taylor Brown, 21, said nothing when the punishment was announced in Fresno County Superior Court.

But once she was handcuffed in court, her family and friends cried. Family and friends of the victim, Jaysen Wright, also shed tears.

In May, Brown pleaded no contest to felony vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated in the death of Wright, 30, of Tollhouse, who was killed during the early hours of Feb 17, 2013.

At the time of the deadly collision, Brown was 20 years old and had a blood-alcohol of at least .15, or nearly twice the legal limit to drive, prosecutor Dennis Verzosa said.

Brown faced up to four years in jail, but her lawyer, James Wasson, was hoping for probation and a yearlong in-patient treatment program.

In announcing the sentence, Judge Kimberly Gaab said she was confronted with an unusual set of facts.

She said Wright was wearing dark clothing and walking in the middle of Highway 168 when he was struck by Brown's car. He had a .22 blood-alcohol level and marijuana in his system, the judge said.

Brown tried to swerve and miss Wright, Gaab said, but the left side of her car hit him. She continued down the road before plunging 70 feet down an embankment, the judge said.

Since the fatal collision, Brown has quit drinking alcohol, attended at least three Alcoholic Anonymous classes per week, has gone to school to become a dental assistant, and is employed in a dentist office, the judge said.

In addition, Gaab noted that Brown had no prior criminal record.

But while Wright chose to walk home from a bar, Brown decided to drink at a party and drive home, Gaab said.

"I think you will give back to the community," the judge told Brown. "But there has to be punishment to deter future behavior."

Afterwards, both sides said it was fair sentence.

"It's an unfortunate case," Verzosa said. "But the bottom line is there are consequences for drinking and driving."

Wasson, agreed, saying "the judge was right in her analysis." But he also said Brown has no recollection of the fatal collision. "It's been a nightmare for her because she doesn't know what happened," Wasson said.

Before Brown left the courtroom in handcuffs, the judge warned her: If she drinks and drives again and kills another person, "you can and will likely be charged with murder."

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6434, plopez@fresnobee.com or @beecourts on Twitter.

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