Both sides agreed on one thing.
“This is not typical murder,” Assistant Public Defender Pamela Parker said. “This was a tragic accident. There are no winners in this case.”
Unlike many of the city’s gang-related homicides, Assistant District Attorney Robert Short said, the victim, Vicki Brown, 55, was not involved in any criminal activity. She was driving to work when she was killed.
“This case demands the maximum sentence, and we would ask you to impose that today,” he told District Judge Joe Kisner.
After hearing the tearful pleas from several of Brown’s relatives, Kisner granted their request and imposed the maximum sentence on Greg Berry, 30, for second-degree murder.
“There’s no right answer here; there’s no solution,” Kisner said. “The damage is done, and everybody has to live with the consequences, including Mr. Berry.”
Thursday’s sentencing concluded an 8-year-old criminal case that was initially buried under the avalanche of publicity that surrounded the August 2005 sentencing hearing of serial killer Dennis Rader.
A Sedgwick County jury convicted Berry of first-degree murder that month, but the Kansas Supreme Court later overturned the conviction, ruling that the jury should have been allowed to consider less-serious charges. Another jury in August convicted Berry of second-degree murder, possession of cocaine and unlawful possession of a firearm.
Kisner on Thursday imposed the maximum of 154 months in prison on the murder charge and ordered Berry to serve a consecutive term of 21 months on the drug and firearms charges.
Prosecutors said Berry was fleeing a Sedgwick County sheriff’s deputy at about 1:45 a.m. Nov. 25, 2004, when his Cadillac crashed into the driver’s side of Brown’s four-door Chrysler at 47th Street South and Meridian, killing her.
Before the sentence was imposed, one of Brown’s daughter’s, Janelle Wilson, told the judge that her mother was the center of a family that had grown to include five grandchildren.
“She was the rock of our family,” she said.
Another daughter, Lynette Brown, agreed.
“My mother was the glue that held all of us together,” she said. “I couldn’t ask for a better mother or grandmother.”
After Brown’s daughters and two of her sisters read prepared statements in court, Brown’s mother, Marjorie Blackwell, asked to be heard.
“I have tried to put this in the back of my mind, but it will never, never go away,” she said. “We miss Vicki. We will always miss Vicki.
“I’m sorry to take your time but I had to say a few words.”
Berry sat quietly and looked down at the defense table as Brown’s relatives addressed the court. When given a chance to speak, he asked for leniency, saying he had turned his life around during the eight years since Brown’s death.
“I know there’s nothing I can say to change your opinion of me,” he told Brown’s relatives. “But I do want you to know that I am very, very sorry from the bottom of my heart.”