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‘Pill Head’ Remark Didn’t|Taint Manslaughter Case

(CN) - A woman who caused a fatal accident while high on 11 controlled substances was not prejudiced by jurors hearing her called a "pill head," the Arkansas appeals court ruled.

Michelle Scrimsher testified that she had been driving with her sister in the car on Oct. 21, 2007, when an SUV in the oncoming traffic lane started straddling the middle line.

She veered off the road to avoid a head-on collision, as did the car carrying her parents and husband, which was following six to eight lengths behind.

That car could not avoid impact with the SUV, however, and the crash killed Scrimsher's mother, Alpha Gann, and her husband, Harold Scrimsher. Her father, Virgil Gann, survived.

The officers noted that the driver of the SUV, Carrie Dail, appeared "to be in cloud nine," under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Dail was convicted of two counts of manslaughter. She was sentenced to 10 years in prison for each count, running concurrently, and fined $20,000.

She appealed the sentence, alleging juror misconduct based on a lunch that two jurors shared after the main portion of the trial but before closing arguments and jury deliberations.

According to Dail's appeal, a man came up to the jurors and called Dail a "pill head." She claimed that the words prejudiced the jury against her, and she also challenged the sufficiency of the evidence.

The Arkansas Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction Thursday.

"There was no testimony that Dail made any attempt to stop or correct the SUV," Judge Larry Vaught wrote for the court. "The testimony relating to Dail's actions and omissions while behind the wheel of a vehicle more than satisfy the reckless showing required by the state."

As for the jurors who heard the "pill head" comment, Vaught ruled that Dail was not prejudiced.

"First, there was no proof that (juror Louanne) Hogue shared the comment with her fellow jurors," Vaught wrote. "Second, there was no evidence of juror disagreement after the verdict was read. And finally, the evidence showed that Dail's speech was slurred, several prescription bottles were found in her SUV, and she had 11 different controlled substances in her system at the time of the collision."

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