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Macomb Daily Trials
By Jameson Cook, The Macomb Daily
Posted: 10/02/15, 8:57 PM EDT
A 36-year-old Clinton Township man was convicted Friday of one of two severe felonies for causing a crash that killed a 30-year-old woman two years ago.
Russell Humes was found guilty by a jury of reckless driving causing death, punishable by up to 15 years in prison, and acquitted of driving while impaired by alcohol causing death, also a 15-year charge.
Humes was driving a 2002 Chevy Blazer on Sept. 28, 2013, when he drove across three lanes and into the oncoming path of 2006 Ford Fusion driven by Jennifer Palmer (nee Seitz) on 19 Mile Road in Clinton Township. The 30-year-old Clinton Township woman died that day from her injuries.
Humes, who golfed before the 1:20 p.m. crash, had a blood-alcohol level of about .06 percent – or possibly as low as .04 percent — as well as two prescription drugs in his system at the time of the crash, based on evidence, attorneys said.
Palmer’s mother, Kimberly Seitz, who attended the trial, said she hoped Humes would be convicted of both charges but is pleased he was convicted of one.
“I’m glad he’s going to jail,” Seitz said. “(But) it won’t be enough time. He’ll be able to get out.”
She added Humes has failed to take responsibility as he continuously fought the original charges that also included third-offense drunken driving and violating drivers license restrictions. The drunken driving charge was dismissed, and he pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor license charge.
“It’s been two years of hell,” said Seitz, weeping. “For two years I’ve had to go to court every couple of months.
“He took my baby from me. I’m never going to be the same.”
Palmer, the sister of three older brothers, worked for one of entrepreneur Dan Gilbert’s companies in Detroit, she said. She had married Christopher Palmer about 10 weeks before the crash. He and his two children also were in the Fusion but were not injured.
Also attending the trial were Palmer’s sister-in-law and three of her good friends who knew her at Utica High School.
The jury deliberated less than four hours Friday afternoon before reaching a verdict, following a three-day trial in Macomb County Circuit Court in Mount Clemens.
Humes will be sentenced Nov. 19 by Judge Diane Druzinski.
During the trial, Humes’ defense attorney, Stephen Rabaut, said his client was not reckless because he was attempting to turn into the driveway of a dentist office.
“It may have been careless, but that’s not reckless,” he told jurors in closing arguments. “That was an automobile accident. That’s what it was.”
But Assistant Macomb Prosecutor Jeffrey Hall pointed to two witnesses who indicated that Humes’ vehicle “drifted” over the three lanes and struck Palmer’s car almost head-on without braking or activating a turn signal.
“He didn’t just swerve out of his lane a little bit,” Hall said. “He went across three lanes and hit the car head-on at 50 mph. This is not simply a car accident.”
The computer on Palmer’s car and skid marks showed she pressed the brakes in the one second prior to impact, he stated.
Humes had no reason to turn into the driveway and “never would have made it” in the driveway, instead driving on grass, he said.
Hallargued that Humes was affected by the alcohol as well as Prozac and Lyrica, both anti-depressants, in his system. He pointed out that both drugs carry a warning to not consume alcohol while under their influence.
But Rabaut countered that Humes blood-alcohol level was “significantly below” the .08 percent standard for intoxication and there was no test to determine how much of the prescription drugs were in his system.
“Just because somebody has alcohol in their system while operating a vehicle doesn’t mean it impaired their ability to drive,” he said.
Rabaut called the supposed prescription-drug effect “a red herring.” “It’s much ado about nothing,” he said.
He said while Humes admitted to taking the drugs, there was no test to confirm that.
Humes’ blood also showed traces of amphetamine, opiates and THC, an ingredient of marijuana, but the findings were not part of the trial.