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Koch v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

January 10, 2017

SARA JANE KOCH A/K/A SARA KOCH A/K/A SARA J. KOCH APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 07/24/2015

         HARRISON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, SECOND JUDICIAL DISTRICT HON. LAWRENCE PAUL BOURGEOIS JR. Judge

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER BY: MOLLIE MARIE MCMILLIN

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: ALICIA MARIE AINSWORTH

          DISTRICT ATTORNEY: JOEL SMITH

          BEFORE LEE, C.J., BARNES AND FAIR, JJ.

          LEE, C.J.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶1. On March 25, 2013, Sara Jane Koch was indicted on two counts of felony driving under the influence (DUI) causing death or disfigurement. Count I charged aggravated DUI[1]while Koch was under the influence of intoxicating liquor pursuant to Mississippi Code Annotated section 63-11-30(1)(a) (Supp. 2016). Count II charged aggravated DUI[2] while Koch's blood-alcohol content (BAC) was over .08% pursuant to Mississippi Code Annotated section 63-11-30(1)(c) (Rev. 2013).[3] A jury in the Harrison County Circuit Court, Second Judicial District, found Koch guilty of aggravated DUI. Koch was sentenced to twenty-five years, with seven years suspended, eighteen years to serve in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC), and five years of postrelease supervision. Koch was also ordered to pay $5, 750 in restitution. After her posttrial motions were denied, Koch appealed, asserting the following: (1) the indictment was defective; (2) the jury was not properly instructed; (3) the trial court erred by allowing the State's expert witness to give opinion testimony; and (4) her conviction and sentence need clarification.

         FACTS

         ¶2. At 5:11 a.m. on February 1, 2012, Koch called 911 to report that she had hit a pedestrian while driving on Interstate 10 in D'Iberville, Mississippi. She told the 911 dispatcher that "someone was in my lane[, ] and I hit them[, ] and I'm sure I killed them." At one point, Koch stated, "[T]here was a car[4] in the middle of the road that was there, so I hit them." The 911 operator responded, "So you say there was another car, and the person was standing near the car?" Koch responded, "Yes, on the side of the road."

         ¶3. D'Iberville Police Officer Kevin Sidaway arrived on the scene around 5:15 a.m. Officer Sidaway testified he pulled up behind Koch's car, and she was parked in the emergency lane.[5] Officer Sidaway stated he walked to the passenger side of the car for safety purposes, and once Koch had rolled the window down, he noted the smell of alcohol inside the car. Officer Sidaway testified that Koch was crying hysterically. He also stated that he did not drive over any debris in the road while approaching Koch's car. Another officer had arrived at the same time as Officer Sidaway but parked further back.

         ¶4. Officer Kenneth Goins, a DUI-enforcement officer with the D'Iberville Police Department (DPD), arrived at 5:23 a.m. Officer Goins noted the smell of alcohol in Koch's car. He testified that as he walked Koch to his patrol car, she "was unsteady on her feet, kind of swaying and stumbling a little bit." Koch was still crying. Officer Goins read Koch her Miranda[6] rights, arrested her, and transported her to the D'Iberville police station. Officer Goins obtained a warrant for a blood test, and Koch's blood was drawn at a local hospital at 6:59 a.m. At some point, Koch told Officer Goins that she had consumed five alcoholic beverages prior to the accident.

         ¶5. Terry Hines, a captain with the DPD, arrived at the scene at 5:50 a.m. Captain Hines walked down the emergency lane, noting the debris from the accident. Captain Hines noted that no debris was found in the right lane of Interstate 10; rather, debris was found in the emergency lane and in the grass on the side of the interstate. According to Captain Hines, the victim, Donald Sullivan, had been walking to work when Koch struck him. Sullivan's body was found in the grassy area approximately thirty or forty feet from the emergency lane. During his investigation, Captain Hines learned that Koch had been at the Hard Rock Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi, prior to the accident. Captain Hines also obtained a warrant to search Koch's cell phone.

         ¶6. Several hours after the accident, Koch called a friend from jail. This call had been recorded and was played for the jury during trial. Koch's friend asked her if Sullivan was walking on the interstate or on the side. Koch responded, "Apparently on the side. I don't remember much."

         ¶7. Donnie Dobbs, a detective with the Biloxi Police Department (BPD), assisted the DPD with the data recovery from Koch's cell phone. Detective Dobbs testified that Koch had been exchanging text messages with someone Koch referred to as "Brucie Boyfran." At 4:41 a.m., Koch sent Brucie a text that said, "Driving. Go R [sic]." And then at 4:42 a.m., she sent him another text that said, "I'm f'd up." Koch texted Brucie several more times and called him at 5:10 a.m. The duration of the call was fifty seconds. The next outgoing call was the 911 call at 5:11 a.m. The last activity on Koch's phone ...


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