Saturday, March 9, 2013


The man suffered from chronic migraines. When a migraine came on, and they could come on suddenly, he would be forced to lie down, his brain in a fog of pain.

One night this man (who lived far from the Shoals) stopped to have drinks with friends. As he got into his car to leave, he felt a migraine coming on. He thought he could make it home before the most intense pain hit, but he was mistaken. Realizing he couldn’t drive in that condition, he pulled over into a nearby parking lot and lay down.

After approximately half an hour passed, the man felt better and decided to return to the road. He pulled out onto what he thought was the main highway and then into the left lane. After accelerating to 60 mph, the man hit another vehicle head on, killing the driver.

The luckless man hadn’t been on the state highway as he thought, but on an access road. His defense attorney blamed the man’s migraine for the crash. The prosecution contended that, while the man’s blood alcohol content fell slightly below the limit at the time of the accident, the driver would have known his migraine had not subsided enough to let him drive safely if he hadn’t been impaired by the alcohol.

Unusual case? Yes. How did it turn out? The driver, although not legally drunk, was convicted of manslaughter and sent to prison for several years. Was it a fair decision? While we feel for the driver in question, we have to say yes.

Is this case important? It does show that not all “drunk drivers” are evil demons just waiting to kill large families composed mainly of innocent children.

We (and other local blogs) receive regular critical comments from a man we’ll simply call Mr. N. This man sent us a comment that we cannot publish because of some of his references, but Mr. N’s main thought seems to be that Derek Clayton should sue us since we called him “drunk.”

While the word “drunk” may not be nice, it’s a perfectly adequate and much used word, synonymous with “intoxicated with alcohol.” Many cities have laws that use the word. The term “Drunk and Disorderly” is still widely used, although some prefer “Public Intoxication,” which allows law enforcement to arrest those who may not be a danger to others, but could hurt themselves.

Until Derek Ray Clayton was arrested, we had no idea that he had been intoxicated while driving. We wish him no bad luck. We would not have mentioned this case in all probability had it no bearing on the Paradise Drive situation on which we’ve blogged for several months.

The prosecution in the criminal case, as well as the defense in the civil suit brought by Cole Sellner’s mother, will contend that Clayton was driving too fast for road conditions, causing the accident. The Lauderdale District Attorney’s office will further contend that Clayton would not have been driving too fast if he had not been intoxicated (drunk). Considering defense attorney Tony Hughes’ odd comment that Derek Ray Clayton is not guilty of criminal actions even though he was drunk, we have no idea what he will contend at trial. His m.o. from the Greg Ray case seems to be wear the other side down with numerous peripheral witnesses and countless questions.

Will Clayton be found “Not Guilty” of criminal charges? Considering his blood alcohol content, we doubt it. No matter the verdict, Cole Sellner is dead, and his friend Clayton has paid countless dollars to defend himself. It’s an old public service message, but still something we should remember no matter what any defense attorney may say:

Don’t Drink and Drive.


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