HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - 33-year-old Latonya Haley walked into Judge Smith's Courtroom Monday afternoon, hoping he would acknowledge her remorse and grant her a lesser sentence.
That's not what happened.
Judge Smith sentenced Haley to 35 years in prison for Manslaughter and 20 years for leaving the scene of the crime. Both sentences will be served consecutively, not concurrently. “Consecutive, so she’s serving them end to end and I hope the department of corrections obeys the judge’s order and leaves them end to end," says Shauna Barnett, the Madison County Associate District Attorney.
During the trial, prosecutors argued that Haley had been out drinking on that September night in 2014 when she killed 3rd grader Wei Xi Zhang and critically injured his two sisters.
Huntsville Police say an SUV she was driving jumped the curb along Highway 72 and hit the three children before leaving the scene. Two adults walking the children home from their family's restaurant that night were not hurt.
Haley had four previous DUI arrests, plus one after that September hit-and-run.
Overall, Assistant District Attorney Shauna Barnett says she's pleased with the judge's decision. “I understand that it’s difficult to give somebody a life sentence without an intentional act but she certainly did earn every day she’s going to do in Tutwiler [Prison}," she says.
Haley's attorney and members of her family declined to speak with us on camera, but several of them joined hands in prayer outside of the courtroom, after the sentencing was handed down.