A Collinsville man convicted of being under the influence of marijuana when he caused a crash that killed a Highland woman five years ago has received a 10-year prison sentence, the Madison County State’s Attorney’s Office announced Monday.
Wayne A. Stayton, 41, was found guilty by a jury in June of aggravated driving under the influence of cannabis when his pickup truck crossed the centerline of U.S. 40 in Highland and crashed into a truck driven by Charlene D. Johnson, 45, in February 2018, authorities said.
Johnson, who was driving to work when the crash occurred early on Feb. 23, 2018, died from her injuries in the head-on crash, according to reports at that time
Johnson was remembered as a mother of two and for her willingness to help others.
Madison County court records show the jury acquitted Stayton of a reckless homicide charge in connection with the 2018 crash. Reckless homicide is a lesser offense than aggravated DUI, according to the State’s Attorney’s Office.
The conviction in June was the third time Stayton was convicted of a DUI offense in Madison and St. Clair counties, according to court records. Stayton was convicted of a DUI charge in October 2000 in St. Clair County and a DUI charge in September 2002 in Madison County, according to court records.
A search warrant request in 2018 stated that Stayton, after the crash, said he had been driving more than 100 mph.
“This prosecution involved highly scientific evidence and testimony from medical experts,” Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Haine said in a news release. “This is an area of criminal law that continues to evolve. In the end, the jury’s diligent analysis led them to the conclusion that this defendant chose to become impaired, then got behind the wheel – and in fact was still impaired at the time of the crash.
“This defendant’s choices resulted in the loss of an innocent motorist who was loved by her family, her co-workers and her community.”
The news release also stated that “The jury rejected a defense that Stayton suffered a mental illness and was experiencing a manic episode at the time of the crash.”
Robert Bas, an Edwardsville attorney who represented Stayton, said in an interview Monday that Stayton had taken Zoloft for his bipolar disorder in the week before the crash and this caused an “adverse reaction” that put him in a “florid manic, psychotic episode” at the time of the crash.
“This is a case of mental illness,” Bas said
Associate Judge Ronald Slemer issued the prison sentence on Friday.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant State’s Attorney Jim Buckley and Assistant State’s Attorney Susan Jensen.