Kramer found guilty in fatal motorcycle crash

OKEECHOBEE — A six-person Okeechobee jury Tuesday found a local woman guilty of several charges in the 2015 death of motorcyclist Clinton Griffin, 46.

Lisa Marie Kramer, 47

Lisa Marie Kramer, 47, U.S. 441 S.E., faced charges of DUI manslaughter-leaving the scene, vehicular homicide-leaving the scene, possession of cocaine, and DUI with prior convictions, Kramer plead not guilty.

The six person jury unanimously found her guilty on all four charges.

Kramer was sentenced to 35 years in prison. Her driver’s license has been permanently revoked.

She is awaiting a sentence on the possession of cocaine charge and could also face up to five more years for a violation of probation – grand theft of motor vehicle – in Palm Beach County when she was convicted of her most recent DUI.

In his opening statement, Assistant State Attorney Don Richardson told the jury that a witness to the event, Adam Ward, saw a motorcycle stopped ahead to make a left-hand turn into the Thornberry RV Park. He watched as a Kia failed to slow down and hit the motorcyclist, Clinton Lewis Griffin.

Mr. Richardson said Ward watched the Kia speed away and decided to follow it on his Harley Davidson motorcycle, getting up to a high rate of speed. He said when the motorcycle came almost parallel to the Kia, Mr. Ward motioned for the vehicle to pull over.

The driver of the Kia supposedly gave a hand signal of using a phone.

Mr. Ward called 911 and gave the license tag number of the Kia to dispatch.

In court testimony, Mr. Ward told the jury, “she ran off the road two, three times.”

He said that after witnessing the crash, he followed the vehicle because, “I ride a motorcycle everyday, and hope that someone would do the same for me.”

Law enforcement officials later found an unoccupied Kia matching the description given by Ward’s phone call parked less than a half a mile away from the registered owner’s address.

Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) deputies spoke with Kramer about 45 minutes after the crash. Corporal Kristin Gray, testified that Kramer “claimed not to be in a crash and did not know where the car was.”

Cpl. Gray also testified that Kramer was “frantic, displayed tedious movements and slurred speech,” and had a “hard time standing and tripped over her own feet.” Cpl. Gray did note that during her encounter with Kramer that she “was very cordial.”

Mr. Richardson said a video of an attempted field sobriety exercise (FSE) in the parking lot located at the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) building in daylight with drizzling rain was conducted by Deputy Steven Pollock – the county’s only Drug Recognition Expert. It was also recorded via Florida Highway Patrol dash camera system.

Deputy Pollock testified that Kramer’s “words mumbled and slurred, was not walking normal and was very talkative.”

Given the poor performance, a blood sample was requested from Kramer — who consented willfully and was tested by Crime Laboratory Analyst, Gina Connelly, of Florida Department of Law Enforcement. According to court testimony, the blood test yielded no alcohol content but did indeed have “five substances reported,” with four metabolites of diazepam within the therapeutic range (meaning it will not kill you but can still be impaired) that was prescribed to Kramer, and one metabolite of cocaine. A search warrant of the vehicle resulted in cocaine being found in the glove compartment.

According to court testimony, Kramer was taken to an interview room at OCSO and read her Miranda Warning, where a video surveillance camera depicted that she then reacted by apparently almost falling asleep, slurred her speech, admitted to driving and not knowing exactly what happened. The interview then finished with Kramer being arrested and supposedly telling her mother in a recorded phone call where she protested her innocence when she stated, “that man, he was drunk and pulled right out in front of me.”

The exterior surveillance camera located at the VFW building recorded the crash and “proves Kramer false,” Mr. Richardson pointed out to the jury.

“His (Griffin’s) mistake was being on the same road at the same time with this defendant,” he said.

Defense attorney Andrew Stine pointed out that the “State’s number one witness – (now retired) Florida Highway Patrol homicide investigator, Trooper Corporal Mark Zook, said ‘no’” when asked if there was any way of knowing that Kramer was impaired at the time of the crash.

“If the lead investigator cannot say, how can the State?” he asked. Mr. Stine and that another vehicle reportedly involved in the crash “whoever drove the red SUV is responsible for Griffin’s death.” He noted that was never investigated.

“The country is held by Constitutional principles…right to a lawyer, right to keep your mouth shut and not say anything … Kramer stated ‘no,’ Mr. Stine told the jury.

He said when Kramer was asked again by Cpl. Zook in the taped interview,‘are you sure?’ she replied ‘no.’

“Without the Constitution we have tyranny. The Constitution is to refrain government, protection to stop government. Saying ‘no’ is apparently not enough, and that Cpl. Zook continues to try and get out of the ‘no’ answer.” Mr. Stine said. He relayed to the jury that Kramer’s “statement was made after she said ‘no’” when asked by Cpl. Zook if she wished to speak with him after being read her Miranda Warnings.

Mr. Stine claimed Kramer was not under the influence when she drove away from the crash site with Mr. Ward in pursuit.

“Do you believe, God rest him, Dale Earnhardt could have drove 105 mph while impaired, rooting in the back of a car for a bag?” he asked the jury.

In regards to the cocaine found in the car, part of Mr. Stein’s argument was that “mere proximity to a substance is not sufficient to exercise control of a substance.”

Testimony from Cpl. Zook and another witness was that Kramer was possibly traveling below the speed limit at the time of the crash. Mr. Stine told jury that approximately “17 mph below the speed limit was not reckless, but precisely the opposite of reckless.”

Mr. Stine reminded the jury, “A reasonable doubt is not a mere possible doubt, a speculative, imaginary or forced doubt. Such a doubt must not influence you to return a verdict of not guilty if you have an abiding conviction of guilt. On the other hand, if, after carefully considering, comparing and weighing all the evidence, there is not an abiding conviction of guilt, or, if, having a conviction, it is one which is not stable but one which wavers and vacillates, then the charge is not proved beyond every reasonable doubt and you must find the defendant not guilty because the doubt is reasonable.”

“To prevent injustices, you follow the law,” Mr. Richardson told the jury. “Please remember that what the attorneys say is not evidence or your instruction on the law. Look at all the evidence in the case, not one or two things. Make your own determination.”

Mr. Richardson continued, “If she (Kramer) was not impaired, she would have been able to avoid a collision” based from witnesses’ testimonies of the rate of travel estimated below the speed limit.

“I completely agree with the defense attorney (Stine) about the testing (blood draw, FSE and interview) would be more accurate if they were done closer in time to the crash. This defendant (Kramer) deprived you of these results when she fled the scene at a high rate of speed and then ditched her car,” Mr. Richardson explained.

Mr. Richardson then summarized that “the etymology of ‘verdict’ means to ‘speak the truth’” and that “the defendant (Kramer) is flatly contradicted by the evidence in this case” in regards to Kramer pleading not guilty.

In a post-trial interview with the Okeechobee News, Mr. Richardson stated, “The people of the State of Florida are safer as a result of the jury’s decision and the sentence handed down by Judge Vaughn.”

Prior to opening statements, the State of Florida prosecuting Kramer, represented by Assistant State Attorney’s Ashley Albright and Mr. Richardson, asked that the defense’s argument of Kramer’s prescription medication being in the therapeutic range not be heard by the jury on the basis of relevance, as she was still operating a motor vehicle under the influence – impairing her normal faculties of the ability to see, hear, walk, talk, judge distances, drive an automobile, make judgments, act in emergencies, and, in general, normally perform the many mental and physical acts of daily life.

Defense Attorney Stine, objected that it is imperative to allow the jury this information, as Kramer’s argument of not guilty is that she was not impaired at the time of the traffic crash.

The State’s motion was denied by 19th Circuit Court Judge, Dan L. Vaughn, presiding over the criminal case, based on his view as it being relevant for the jury.

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