Chevy Chase woman guilty of negligent homicide in drunken driving case
A Chevy Chase woman was found guilty Tuesday of negligent homicide and driving while under the influence in an October accident that killed a Howard County woman.
A D.C. Superior Court jury of seven women and five men also found Jorida Davidson, 31, guilty of leaving the scene after a collision in the Oct. 7 death of Kiela M. Ryan, 24. But it could not reach a unanimous verdict on voluntary manslaughter, the most serious charge against Davidson.
As a result, Davidson faces three to five years in prison instead of as many as 30. She also could be deported to Albania, her native country, after her release from prison.
Davidson, who showed little emotion as the jury foreman read the verdict, is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 9.
During a seven-day trial, prosecutors argued that Davidson was drunk when her Lexus SUV struck Ryan as she got out of the back seat of a friend’s parked car in the 1300 block of Connecticut Avenue NW, just south of Dupont Circle.
Davidson’s attorney, J. Michael Hannon, argued that his client was not drunk. He said that she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and amnesia triggered by the accident, and that was why she did not report it.
Hannon and a Bethesda psychiatrist who testified said Davidson suffered from childhood trauma associated with growing up in war-torn Albania and watching her mother die of breast cancer and her father suffer a fatal heart attack.
After the accident, according to prosecutors, Davidson returned to the rented condominium she shared with her husband. About an hour after the accident, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Liebman said, police found Davidson’s SUV in the building’s garage. Davidson was slumped in the driver’s seat with the car keys in her hand, police said.
Prosecutors said Davidson failed two sobriety tests and declined a breath test.
Liebman urged Judge Lynn Leibovitz to keep Davidson — who told her psychiatrist she had been drinking with friends before rear-ending another vehicle in July 2010 — locked up until her sentencing. “She’s a danger to the community and a flight risk,” he argued.
Leibovitz ordered Davidson held, and she turned and handed her purse to one of her attorneys before marshals escorted her to the jail block behind the courtroom for processing.
The jury deliberated for about two days. On Monday, jurors sought a clarification of the part of the manslaughter charge that requires that a defendant know the dangers his or her actions might pose and ignore these dangers.
Ryan was celebrating her birthday the night she was killed. Outside the courtroom after the verdicts were read, her mother and brother wept. Dozens of Ryan’s friends also wiped away tears and hugged.
Her father, John “Rocky” Ryan said he was “happy” but had hoped for a voluntary or involuntary manslaughter conviction. “We’re just satisfied she’s behind bars,” he said.
“She took our daughter. This wasn’t an accident. This was preventable and completely avoidable.”
The victim’s mother, Frances Ryan, was disappointed.
Davidson is “going to do a few years, and I’m doing the rest of my life without my daughter,” she said.