Drunk driving killed best friend

Marvin Gregory Grant was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment years after pleading guilty to driving under the influence of alcohol and causing the death of his passenger, Heven Stanford Rankine on 31 March 2007.

After hearing the facts and mitigation earlier this month, Justice Charles Quin told Grant, ‘You have been punished by losing the best friend you ever had.’

Grant was also disqualified from driving for five years. His alcohol-in-blood level was .170. The legal limit is .100.

Both men were 25 at the time of the single-car accident, which occurred in a 25-mph zone in East End.

Solicitor General Cheryll Richards said the incident occurred around 12.45am. A witness outside the Pirates Cove Bar saw Grant, whom he knew, driving slowly past the bar.

He said Grant stopped, reversed, revved the engine and then took off at a high rate of speed heading east. He heard tires squealing as the car went around the corner near Eastern Star Bar.

A woman who lives just past Eastern Star heard a loud bang. She looked outside and saw a white car on its roof. She saw Heven lying in the road and Marvin trying to get another householder to answer the door. She called 911.

Evidence from police officers and accident reconstructionist Vincent Walters noted a right-hand bend in the road (past Eastern Star and near the post office). There were tyre marks made as the vehicle left the road and collided with a utility pole.

Officers said the vehicle had been in good condition before the accident and had no mechanical defects that would have contributed to the accident. It appeared that neither passenger nor driver was wearing a seat belt. It also appeared that the driver had been applying brakes at the time of the collision.

Ms Richards said a post mortem examination was conducted and showed that Heven Rankine died of injuries sustained.

Defence Attorney George Keightley told the court that Grant had worked until 5.30pm on Friday, 30 March. He had received several calls that day from Heven, who had just returned home after being away. Grant was tired from work and was going to play football the next day, so he was not keen to go out.

Then he got a call from Heven’s mother, who asked him to pick Heven up from West Bay. Grant, who lives in East End, drove to West Bay only to find that Heven had got a ride from someone else.

Grant said he drove back to East End and stopped at a bar, where he had three glasses of wine. When he left, he saw Heven so he went back in and had a drink with him.

‘He wanted me to take him home and I said no,’ Grant’s account continued. It was decided that Heven could drive himself home and bring the car back the next day.

The men were on their way to Grant’s home, so that Heven could then take the car, when the accident occurred.

Mr. Keightley said Grant had no memory of the accident. Since he could not recall what had happened, he had waited for the evidence before entering his plea. Part of that evidence put the car’s speed at 35-42 mph at the time of the accident.

This speed was not dangerous in itself, but was an aggravating factor, Mr. Keightley acknowledged. Grant knew the corner and he knew the speed limit, but it would remain forever unclear to him how the accident happened.

The attorney said he had collected 23 references from friends, family, work and football colleagues. He handed up only six, including one from the mother of the deceased.

She spoke of the close relationship between the two young men and Marvin’s support of Heven during a difficult time. She said it would cause her further anguish if Marvin would be sent to prison for any significant period.

Mr. Keightley said sentences in similar cases were 15 and 18 months. One sentence was reduced by the Court of Appeal in 2002 from two years to one year, partly because of the driver’s age – 18 – and partly because the deceased’s widow had written a letter on the defendant’s behalf.

Justice Quin said it was clear Grant had a wonderful family and some great friends – the 23 references testified to what people thought of him as a husband, father, employee and a footballer who was not only a good player himself but also one who took time to help younger players.

The most poignant reference, the judge said, came from Heven’s mother. It was a tribute to her and the Rankine family as well as to Grant.

The judge took into consideration Grant’s guilty plea and accepted that his remorse could not be more genuine.

But his alcohol reading had clearly been over the limit. The roads have to be kept clear of drunk drivers and the sentence had to express the community’s condemnation of drunk driving, the judge indicated.

The five-year disqualification is the minimum required by law.