- Associated Press - Monday, February 13, 2017

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - An Omaha judge should never have sentenced an apparently intoxicated woman who was later taken to a hospital after testing at 5½ times the legal limit to drive, a public defender said.

The woman, Sarah Carr, 32, pleaded guilty Feb. 2 to violating probation Oct. 25 after she was arrested in Lincoln on suspicion of drunken driving. Lincoln police say she tested then at nearly twice the legal limit. Judge Lawrence Barrett sentenced her Feb. 2 to 90 days in jail.

But the hearing should never have occurred, Douglas County Public Defender Tom Riley told the Omaha World-Herald (https://bit.ly/2kjx60X ), because the judge had been told as the hearing commenced that Carr was passed out outside.

Carr’s aunt told Barrett that Carr was in her car, unable to come inside. Court officials and the aunt went outside with a wheelchair and wheeled Carr into the courtroom.

The judge discussed the case with Carr and her court-appointed attorney. She answered his questions and declined to say anything else about the case. Her lawyer didn’t raise any objections either, and the assistant city prosecutor trying the case asked only for a sentencing that day.

Barrett told the World-Herald and repeated to The Associated Press on Monday that he couldn’t be sure that Carr was drunk at the hearing. He declined to comment further, saying Carr could still appeal.

The chief city prosecutor, Matt Kuhse, said he’s not convinced there’s enough evidence to show that his staffer should have asked about a delay.

County public defender Riley said Carr wasn’t the first person to appear drunk in court. But, he said, “It was incumbent upon someone in the courtroom - whether it was our lawyer or the prosecutor or the (judge) on their own observation - to at least make further inquiry into her condition.”

Riley said another public defender visited Carr in jail last week, but that she isn’t interested in an appeal. She’s focusing on getting better, he said.


Information from: Omaha World-Herald, https://www.omaha.com

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