PARIS — The defense attorney for an Oxford woman sentenced to 18 months in prison for causing the deaths of two West Paris teenagers in 2012 is appealing the case to Maine’s highest court.
James Howaniec filed the motion with the Oxford County Superior Court clerk’s office on behalf of his client, Kristina Lowe, on Thursday afternoon.
In it, Howaniec is asking the Maine Supreme Judicial Court to vacate the lower court’s decision to uphold a jury’s conviction on two counts of manslaughter and one count of leaving the scene of an accident.
During an emotional sentencing hearing last Wednesday, friends and family of the deceased urged the court to send a strong message, telling a judge how the deaths had torn apart their lives.
Lowe, 21, remains free on bail during the appeal process. She was found guilty during a jury trial in May. Howaniec said the proceedings could last between nine months and a year.
Their arguments for appeal are based on Active-Retired Justice Robert Clifford denying their motion for a mistrial in August.
In arguments similar to that motion, Howaniec contended that Kristina’s father, Earl Lowe, testified about a statement she had made about texting that had been previously suppressed, the court erred in allowing kids who attended a party where Lowe was drinking to testify that she was impaired when her blood-alcohol level was 0.04 — below the legal limit, though she was not of legal age to drink — and that there was no evidence she was texting.
“We just don’t think we got a fair trial, in the heart of Oxford County, just a few miles from the site of the accident,” Howaniec said.
He said the defense would not appeal the sentence, which he called “very fair,” if the convictions are upheld.
In a five-page order issued Aug. 12, Clifford wrote there was sufficient evidence, including excessive speed, inattention and the presence of alcohol and marijuana in Lowe’s blood, for the jury to have “rationally found that the defendant was guilty of vehicular manslaughter” in the deaths of West Paris teens Logan Dam, 19, and Rebecca Mason, 16, in a car crash on Route 219 in West Paris on Jan. 7, 2012.
Clifford noted that objections to Earl Lowe’s testimony, which came over the defendant’s objections and after the prosecution had rested its case, could have been overcome during trial, as the defense had ample opportunity to interview him.
The judge also said that several other witnesses testified Lowe had crashed a car into a stump at the party after doing doughnuts, and that after she walked a mile back from the accident scene to the party house, she told her friends she glanced down at her phone at the sound of an incoming text message just before the crash.