On May 27, former astronaut James Halsell was only sentenced to four years in jail after pleading guilty to two manslaughter and two assault charges resulting from a DUI crashed that claimed the lives of two young Black girls, Niomi James and Jayla Parler.
James Halsell Jr. initially faced a maximum of 20 years for each manslaughter charge and ten years for each assault charge after hitting a vehicle containing the two little girls off of Highway 82 in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama on June 6, 2016.
According to News One, the girls were ejected from the car while Halsell was driving 100 mph on the road after downing a bottle of wine and taking sleeping pills.
Niomi died instantly, while Jayla died later at a local hospital.
Halsell’s lawyers argued that the sleeping medication he was taking resulted in their clients’ disorientation, refuting law enforcement claims that speed and alcohol were also factors.
Coincidentally, Halsell was on probation at the time of the accident after he was previously arrested and found guilty of driving under the influence.
If he violates his probation in this instance, he could face up to 16 years in prison.
Unfortunately for the family of the girls, the judge’s decision to give Halsell a lenient sentence only intensifies the weight of the immeasurable loss.
A series of delays due to COVID-19, the loss of a defense lawyer’s father, and evidence delays pushed the hearing back. The family believes that Halsell was given time to settle his domestic affairs before being sent to prison.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the girls’ mother, Latrice Parler, said, “It wasn’t justice.”
“My daughters were amazing, beautiful, smart, strong little girls that could have been anything in this world if they had the opportunity to grow up, but that was taken from me and all of everyone else in this world,” she continued.
In an interview with CBS 42, Pernell James, the girls’ father, said, “The one thing I do remember the most is them telling me they love me before they went to sleep.”