Court of Appeals affirms decisions by judge, jury
Steven Anderson was high on methamphetamine when the pickup he was driving crashed into a pickup that was being driven by 19-year-old Eagle Scout Isaac Holloway, killing the teen.
Anderson, a 41-year-old four-time felon, avoided a 25-year sentence when a Jones County jury found him not guilty of DUI-death of another, but he did get eight years in prison for possession of meth.
And now Anderson thinks even that sentence is too “harsh,” according to an appeal he filed from prison.
But the state Court of Appeals disagreed with him. The high court upheld the 2016 convictions for possession of meth and DUI, affirming Judge Dal Williamson’s rulings in the case.
Anderson argued that his eight-year sentence is “disproportionate to the crime of methamphetamine possession” and that the Jones County jury’s verdicts were “against the overwhelming weight of evidence.”
He also argued that the circuit court erred in not granting him a new trial. He claimed that the accident scene was “not adequately secured” and that there was “plenty of time” for a digital scale with his thumbprint on it that was found in woods near the crash scene “to have been planted by some ill-willing ‘former associate.’” He also claimed that there was “very little evidence to support the verdict of DUI and simple possession.”
In August 2016, a Jones County jury deliberated for three hours before finding Anderson not guilty of DUI-death of another. They did, however, find him guilty of possession of methamphetamine and DUI, and he was sentenced to eight years in prison as a habitual offender — meaning he would have to serve all of his time, with no chance for early release.
Immediately after the crash in April 2015, Anderson was seen throwing objects into the woods off Orange Drive and he elbowed a volunteer paramedic who was trying to render aid to him, according to testimony. His blood tested positive for meth and a drug-sniffing dog found 5.371 grams of meth and the digital scale that had been tossed into the woods.
Anderson was found not guilty of causing Holloway’s death after a crash expert, testifying for the defense, put doubt in the jurors’ minds about which driver crossed the center line of the road and initiated the crash.
Anderson avoided the possible 25-year sentence for Holloway’s death and the possible 30-year sentence for dealing meth. He did, however, get the eight-year sentence added to a 10-year sentence he was already serving as a habitual offender for possession of meth with intent to distribute. He was released early after being convicted of felony fleeing and sentenced to four years in 2015.
Still, Anderson appealed the latest sentence, saying that it was “unduly harsh and constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.”
The Court of Appeals ruled that his argument is “without merit” because eight years is the maximum allowed by statute.
Justice Jim Greenlee, writing the opinion for the Court of Appeals, noted that several witnesses, “including the on-scene paramedic, hospital physician and the police officers testified that Anderson acted and appeared intoxicated” and that his blood tested positive for methamphetamine.
“Several witnesses testified that Anderson had thrown objects into the woods, where a scale with his thumbprint along with a bag containing a substance later tested and shown to be methamphetamine were found within throwing distance of the wreck,” Greenlee wrote.
The jurors heard the testimony and determined if the witnesses were credible, then used their discretion to determine that Anderson was guilty, Greenlee concluded.
“We cannot find that (the verdicts) were contrary to the overwhelming weight of the evidence or that allowing them to stand would sanction an unconscionable justice,” Greenlee wrote. “This issue is without merit.”
Anderson had, at one time, been involved in youth sports as a coach and umpire, and he even served as a Cub Scout leader. Then his life went into “an evil, downward spiral,” Williamson said before sentencing him.
Holloway was a junior at Northeast Jones, on his way to work at Dairy Queen on the Saturday he was killed in the crash. He had plans to join the U.S. Air Force and marry his high school sweetheart. They had adopted a cat together the day before the crash.
“Isaac was a bright light in a dim world,” his mother Teresa Holloway said.
His father Victor Holloway was angry about the verdict, saying, “Now (Anderson) is going to be able to get back on the street and, God forbid, do it again. No justice was served today.”
After the verdict, District Attorney Tony Buckley said, “I’m stunned. I’ve been doing jury trials for 25 years, on both sides … and I never saw this coming.”
Anderson won’t be eligible for parole until April 2035, according to the Mississippi Department of Corrections’ website.