DA hopes DUI law will be changed after teen's death

Former Pascagoula police officer Daniel Snyder received a six year prison sentence. However, he'll only spend one year behind bars. (Photo source: WLOX)
Former Pascagoula police officer Daniel Snyder received a six year prison sentence. However, he'll only spend one year behind bars. (Photo source: WLOX)

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - He ran over a 16-year-old Jackson County girl and left the scene. For that crime, former Pascagoula police officer Daniel Snyder received a six year prison sentence. However, he'll only spend one year behind bars. The remaining five years will be under a supervised release.

"On that particular night he chose to drink. He chose to drink and drive. And he chose to leave the scene of a very serious accident," said District Attorney Tony Lawrence.

Back in February 2013, the off duty Pascagoula Police officer struck Kaytlynn Brann on Point Aux Chenes Road then fled. Brann later died from her injuries. During the trial, several witnesses told jurors Snyder came back to the crime scene after officers arrived and admitted he had been drinking.

During the sentencing hearing, Snyder's attorney said his client was convicted of leaving the scene and not of any alcohol related charges.

"We get all this eloquence about alcohol and he was drinking and he made bad choices," said attorney Keith Miller. "They didn't charge him with any of that. Why? Because he couldn't prove any of that. Why? Because it's not true. Because if it was, they would have charged it."

Kaytlynn's father, Keith Brann, told the court it breaks his heart Snyder wasn't charged with a more serious offense.

"Since this accident, he has spent one night in jail. One night. I have spent over a year without my daughter," said Brann. "I understand leaving the scene of an accident 10 minutes does not constitute a 20 year sentence. I understand that. But a DUI definitely would have. I still think there's not a jury in this world that had a DUI been charged, would not have convicted him."

Judge Dale Harkey said he had no doubt Snyder drove away that night because he'd been drinking. However, the judge said he was bound to follow the law.

"However much I wish I could punish you or sentence you for what I think you did, I'm required by law to sentence you for what you did," said Judge Harkey. "Mr. Miller is right. You're not guilty of criminal responsibility for the death of Kaytlynn. You're the luckiest man in the world right now, even if you don't think so."

Besides the prison time, Daniel Snyder must pay a $2,000 fine. He's also been ordered to repay Kaytlynn Brann's burial expenses. As soon as we posted this on our Facebook page, it blew up with comments many blaming the justice system.(Read more here: https://www.facebook.com/WLOXTV/posts/10154281059340615)

Lawrence said the Brann family understood why the judge handed down the sentence he did.

"I agree with the judge. We all take an oath to follow the law and that's the law we're going to follow," Lawrence said. "The legislature made the law where in DUI deaths we have to prove impairment and act of negligence and the investigation showed there was no act of negligence."

"I think the Brann family understands that the judge had a very unpleasant duty," Lawrence said. "He processed a lot of information and I'm confident the judge did what he thought was right."

District Attorney Tony Lawrence went on to say he'd like to see changes in the state's DUI laws.

"Daniel Snyder made the choice to drink and drive and leave the scene of a horrible and tragic accident. Because our law is drafted requiring impairment and a separate act of negligence, Daniel Snyder escaped a DUI Causing Death charge. I think if you drive drunk, you should be criminally liable for your decision, regardless of your act of negligence. Drinking and driving should be considered to be an act of negligence in and of itself. But, unfortunately, that is not the law in Mississippi. I hope the legislature will look at this case as an example of why our law needs to be changed."

"As a law enforcement officer, he should have stopped and helped to control the scene until the deputies arrived. Instead, he chose to ignore the oath he took and left the scene."

Two of Snyder's friends and his former police supervisor Lt. Vernon Smith spoke on his behalf during the sentencing. They said he was a good person who had always tried to be helpful and often times would mentor youth in the community.

Copyright 2014 WLOX. All rights reserved.