Walker County Circuit Judge Jerry Selman sentenced 51-year-old Roger Scott Lawson to 30 years in state prison for the two charges.
While driving on U.S. 118 in April 2008, Lawson crashed his vehicle into a motorcycle carrying Phillip Barry Wright and his wife, Sherrie, near the Warrior River Bridge.
Phillip Wright died at the scene while Sherrie Wright was airlifted to UAB Hospital. Walker County District Attorney Bill Adair said Sherrie Wright underwent facial reconstructive surgery several times and almost lost her eye due to injuries from the collision.
During Lawson’s trial, prosecutors provided as evidence two 911 calls reporting an intoxicated driver just moments before the crash. Adair said that, though Lawson was not under the influence of alcohol, he had three medications in his system — Soma, Lortab and Valium.
Adair also pointed out that Jasper police charged Lawson with a DUI in December 2007. In March 2008, Jasper police also confronted Lawson while he sat unconscious in his vehicle outside a local bar, Adair said.
“I think this case speaks to the problem our community has with prescription drugs and the devastation brought on to families due to the abuse of prescription drugs ... but from a prosecution and law enforcement standpoint, people who drive a vehicle impaired will get swift justice,” Adair said.
Joeletta Barrentine, Lawson’s attorney, did not offer a comment after court proceedings Friday evening.
Defense attorneys told jurors Lawson had a prescription for the medications in his system during the collision. However, Adair said, “Just because a doctor gives you a prescription doesn’t mean you can get impaired and drive a vehicle.”
Adair said his staff was able to try the case because of help from Brandon Hughes, a traffic safety resource prosecutor with the Office of Prosecution Services in Montgomery.
“It’s always good to get a great young prosecutor to help and throw in with you,” Adair said.
Hughes said he commends the district attorney’s office, particularly Assistant DA Matthew Dougherty, for using the resources available from Montgomery to prosecute such highly technical cases.