Seniors and Jail Time — When Justice Gets Messy

Correction — justice is always messy, but it can be even more so when seniors are involved. It’s hard to imagine a sweet little old lady spending time behind bars, so what is a judge to do when an elderly grandmother continues to break the law and eventually kills someone? Something has to be done.

This was the case on June 21, 2016 in Santa Rosa, CA when Gayle Gray, a 77-year-old grandmother, was sentenced to seven years and four months in prison. With good behavior there is a chance she’ll only spend six years of her sentence behind bars, but that still means she won’t be out until she’s 83-years-old. The thought of putting an elderly woman in prison may be hard for some people to swallow, but according to Sonoma County Judge Jamie Thistlethwaite, “there has to be consequences.”

Gray was convicted of felony vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated for a Jan. 20th incident that resulted in the death of one woman and severe injury of another. That’s right, this 77-year-old grandma killed 85-year-old Jackie Simons, and seriously injured 91-year-old, Josephine Ross, while driving under the influence. According to an article by the Press Democrat, Gray was driving under the influence of both prescription medication and alcohol when she hit the gas instead of the brake and ran over the two women walking on the sidewalk.

What may be even more shocking than the image of a grandmother hitting and killing someone while driving drunk, is that this wasn’t Gray’s first drunk driving conviction. It was actually her third. While Gray’s attorney tried to avoid a prison sentence, Prosecutor Tashawn Sanders stated that Gray had actually finished a residential treatment from a previous DUI conviction, and was well aware of the dangerous consequences of driving while impaired.

With the high number of car accident related fatalities in the United States, drunk driving cannot be taken lightly. According to the website of Orange County car accident lawyers Panish, Shea, & Boyle, in 2013 alone there were 32,719 car accident related deaths in the U.S. While the death of Jackie Simons is tragic, it is also important to remember the drastic impact this crash had on surviving victim, Josephine Ross.

Ross stated in court that the crash had severely altered her quality of life. Ross also said, “She [Gray] deserves to be punished for what she’s done with a long sentence in state prison.” The injuries Ross suffered besides the emotional pain of losing her friend, include a shattered ankle, broken bones in her back, and a concussion.