Lane could face 12 years for fatal hit-and-run

Lane could face 12 years for fatal hit-and-run

March 5th, 2011 by Todd South in News

A 26-year-old Chattanooga man convicted Friday of vehicular homicide and related charges in the hit-and-run death of a Unum employee could face up to 12 years in prison.

It took a jury of nine women and three men more than six hours to find Jeremy Allen Lane guilty of vehicular homicide, filing a false report and leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in death. The jury found Lane not guilty of DUI.

Lane remained composed as the verdict was read, leaning forward slightly as he stood next to his attorney, Dan Ripper.

His mother, Janice Lane, began to sob quietly in the audience moments after the jury found her son guilty.

Jeremy Lane enters Judge Don Poole's courtroom.

Shortly after the verdict, jurors left the courthouse without commenting to the media.

The family of Susan Wood, killed by Lane in the Dec. 23, 2009, hit-and-run, said they were pleased with the verdict.

"I'm very happy today," said Wood's husband, Matt. "I feel that Susan's death has been vindicated.

"As far as forgiveness, one day I will forgive Mr. Lane for what he did ... but not today," he said.

Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Don Poole scheduled a sentencing hearing on May 16.

Poole can decide whether time on each of the charges runs consecutively or concurrently. The vehicular homicide charge carries a three- to six-year term. The charge of filing a false report could draw two to four years and the count of leaving the scene of an accident could bring one to two years.

If served consecutively at the maximum range, the total prison time amounts to a dozen years.

Lane pleaded guilty in the opening minutes of the trial Tuesday to filing a false report and leaving the scene of an accident. His three-day trial was on the remaining charges.

He was indicted on a charge of vehicular homicide as a result of intoxication, which alone carries 12-year maximum sentence, as well as DUI.

But jurors decided Lane was guilty of vehicular homicide as a result of reckless conduct.

District Attorney General Bill Cox and Assistant District Attorney Neal Pinkston said they presented all the evidence they had. Police officers never performed any kind of sobriety test on Lane.

Ripper argued throughout the trial that his client was not intoxicated.

"What happened here is awful," Ripper said, "that a woman loses her life in an automobile accident and then somebody leaves the scene."

But, he said, "punishing [Lane] for something that can't be proven doesn't make it any better that he did something that he never should have done."

Lane did not comment to media. He has been in custody at the Hamilton County Jail since January 2010.

Contributed Photo This family photo was taken two months before Susan, left, was killed in a hit-and-run collision. Pictured are Wood's husband Matt, son, Brody, and daughter, Rachel.

Prosecutors alleged during the trial that Lane drank alcohol and smoked marijuana over the course of nearly four hours at the Chattanooga Billiards Club, where he worked.

He left about 7 a.m. and struck Wood at the intersection of Walnut and Fourth streets. The mother of two was crossing the street on her way to work.

Jessica Hunt, Lane's co-worker, was on the phone with him. She testified Thursday that Lane said, "Oh my God, I think I just hit someone."

Lane did not brake, swerve or stop after the collision, according to witnesses. He drove away and stashed his battered red 1995 Nissan 240SX sports car at the Riverview Grande apartments on Dallas Road.

He then called 911 and concocted a fake story about being carjacked, then went into the Kangaroo Express on Dallas Road. A series of police officers interviewed him about the supposed carjacking as others simultaneously investigated the hit-and-run downtown.

Within hours, police began to believe Lane was involved in the hit-and-run.

But until Tuesday's guilty plea, Lane maintained that he was carjacked and had nothing to do with Wood's death.