First-time offender blames lawyers for 33-year DUI term, but judge points to beer pong video

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Lawyers for Kenneth Richard Jenkins had hoped for a four- to eight-year prison term in his driving-under-the-influence case because he was a first-time offender and expressed remorse for the accident he caused that killed three people.

But a judge gave Jenkins nearly 33 years at his 2011 sentencing, unfavorably influenced by a private investigator’s videotape that showed the defendant playing beer pong within weeks of the sentencing, the Palm Beach Post reported at the time. A cousin of one of the victims who died in the 2008 wrong-way crash hired the PI after hearing that Jenkins was still partying after the accident.

New lawyers for Jenkins argued last month that his original attorneys are to blame for the sentence in the Palm Beach County case, which may be the longest ever for a Florida DUI manslaughter. That’s because Jenkins would have been incarcerated, likely for a much shorter term, his new counsel contended, if he had taken a plea soon after the accident, another Palm Beach Post article reports.

But Circuit Judge Charles Burton has now upheld the hefty prison term, calling the beer pong video “the nail in the coffin” for Jenkins, reports the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Burton said former defense counsel for Jenkins were right to pursue possible exculpatory evidence, even though it didn’t pan out. “The trial lawyers conducted themselves professionally and competently by investigating the case,” the judge said, “especially in light of the fact that there were two witnesses who suggested that the victims were going in the wrong direction.”

See also:

ABA Journal: “Some firms swear by the use of private investigators”

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