Driver pleads guilty

Published 12:03 am Wednesday, March 26, 2008

NATCHEZ — Michael Cody McJohnson, the driver in a July 4 wreck that killed three people, pleaded guilty to three counts of DUI negligent homicide Monday afternoon.

Judge Al Johnson sentenced McJohnson to 20 years per count to be served concurrently at the Mississippi Department of Corrections.

Johnson said McJohnson will be released after serving 15 years and then will be on probation for the remaining five years.

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The maximum amount of time for DUI negligent homicide is 25 years, but Johnson took several things into account when only sentencing the 21-year-old to 20 years.

“It was his age and the fact that it was not something that was intentional, meaning he didn’t intend for anybody to be harmed,” Johnson said.

Johnson said he was also affected by a testimony in which it was stated that one of the deceased passengers was a best friend of McJohnson.

“The other factor (is) the victims that were in the vehicle with him, they were riding with him and not somebody else in another vehicle that was innocently struck by a drunk driver,” he said.

McJohnson’s blood alcohol level was .09 percent — .01 percent above the legal limit.

McJohnson, and the three people who were killed, Nicholas Kirby, 19, Justin Wiley, 21, and Kristin Holmes, 15, had been at In the Mix Club on Homochitto Street when police were responding to a call from the club at 10:55 p.m., that three males had been reportedly beaten with a blunt object.

One of the patrol officers who was responding to the call passed the 1998 GMC pickup truck that McJohnson was driving. The officer clocked the truck going 86 miles per hour on John R. Junkin Drive.

The police caught up with the truck on Canal Street as it was turning on to Briel Avenue. The truck careened off Briel Avenue into a gully, dropping 60 feet before landing on a tree.

McJohnson was taken to the University of Mississippi Medical Center where he was treated for severe injuries. The three other passengers were killed instantly, Adams County Coroner James Lee had reported.

“He expressed his sorrow to everyone openly in court,” Johnson said.

McJohnson is in the custody of the Adams County Sheriff’s Department and will be there until he is transported to MDOC.

Sheriff Ronny Brown said his department hasn’t received the court order yet but once they do, MDOC will have 30 days to pick up McJohnson.