Father of hit-and-run victim says 'evidence was there' against Nestande
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It’s been nearly a week since 25-year-old Gabrielle Nestande was found guilty of criminally negligent homicide in the hit-and-run death of Courtney Griffin. After a nine day trial the former legislative aide was sentenced to 10 years probation and a $10,000 fine.
It was a verdict decided by nine men and three women, and a decision Courtney’s father, Bart Griffin, says was not justice. On Thursday, the day that would have been Courtney's 32nd birthday, he spoke out for the first time since the trial.
"It's always been about Courtney, it’s always been about justice for Courtney," Griffin said. "We trust the process. We just cannot believe what the jury came back with. The evidence was there."
Nestande was driving the black BMW that struck Griffin in the early morning hours of May 27, 2011. Her defense team argued during trial that at no point did the California native know she hit a person, first thinking someone threw a rock at her car and then telling friends she hit a deer.
Griffin’s body was found in a Tarrytown resident’s driveway just before 5 a.m. Nestande was arrested later that morning at the State Capitol, where she worked as an administrative aide for Rep. Wayne Christian.
"Waves of sadness come over me, and it just takes you right back to that day, that moment," Griffin said.
Evidence presented by the state during trial included surveillance footage of Nestande at Clive Bar on Rainey Street on the night of May 26, taking a shot of liquor just one hour before the accident.
She faced indictments of intoxication manslaughter, manslaughter and failure to stop and render aid, but was found not guilty.
"We do not believe she was intoxicated, we do not believe they have shown she was intoxicated, you can't put somebody up on the stand and say you had a few drinks, and what they want to do is keep making it more and keep making it more," defense attorney Perry Minton said during closing arguments.
Minton said after the verdict he wouldn’t comment until March 25, when the judge will determine the details of Nestande’s probation and could tack on up to 180 days of jail time.
But to Griffin, even 180 days is not enough of a consequence for Nestande as he has to relive the tragic reality of that night.
"My hope for her is when she lays her head down on her pillow every night and it's nice and quiet, that image that she talked about ,and that her lawyers talked about, that image flashes before her eyes and she sees Courtney and remembers what she's done,” he said.
Bart Griffin isn’t giving up the fight for justice, either. He is working with state legislators to raise the crime of failure to stop and render aid from a third to second degree felony.
He also has sought legal counsel and is considering filing a civil suit against Nestande.