Alyssa Shepherd appeals reckless homicide conviction

Fulton County Courthouse. (Photo: Nick Deranek/News Now Warsaw)

Alyssa Shepherd’s attorney has filed a direct appeal of her sentence in the Indiana Court of Appeals.

Stacy Uliana is Shepherd’s attorney and she filed the appeal May 5, writing the state failed to present sufficient evidence from which the jury could infer that Shepherd had acted recklessly.

Uliana also accused Fulton Superior Court of committing reversible error by refusing to instruct the jury that a driver’s inadvertence, lack of attention or error of judgment cannot support a charge of reckless homicide.

Shepherd, 25, was convicted in October of three counts of reckless homicide, Level 5 felonies; reckless driving causing bodily injury, a Class A misdemeanor; and criminal recklessness, a Level 6 felony, after a four-day jury trial in Rochester.

Fulton Superior Court Judge Greg Heller sentenced Shepherd in December to 10 years in the Indiana Department of Corrections. She had faced up to 21-1/2 years.

Shepherd is an inmate at the Rockville Correctional Facility, with her earliest possible release dated Sept. 17, 2022, according to IDOC records.

Shepherd hit four children, killing three of them, as they were crossing Ind. 25 north of Rochester to board their school bus. Shepherd went around the bus. The bus had its flashing lights on and the stop arm was extended when the crash occurred. Shepherd has always maintained she did not recognize the vehicle as a school bus.

In the appeal, Uliana writes, “She was not drinking, playing on her phone, distracted by her children or even unreasonably speeding. Shepherd made an error in judgment with the most tragic of consequences. … Failing to slow down for a vehicle with bright lights may be negligent, but not so out of the ordinary or prohibited by the traffic code that failure to do so is a substantial deviation of acceptable standards of conduct punishable as a crime. Despite the pain and suffering that traffic accidents like this cause, Indiana does not criminalize negligence, or even gross negligence.”

Uliana also writes that, “Recognizing that the distinction between negligence and recklessness is difficult for even trained attorneys to grasp, Indiana precedent requires courts to give requested instructions elaborating on the distinction in vehicular accident cases.”

Shepherd’s attorney also argues that Shepherd’s convictions for criminal recklessness and recklessly passing a school bus were based on the same act with the same harm to the same victim. “As such, the convictions violate double jeopardy and one must be vacated,” the appeal writes.

Shepherd’s driver’s license was also suspended, but Uliana argues that her license suspensions for convictions that are part of one criminal episode should be concurrent, not consecutive as ordered.

Uliana is asking the appeals court to vacate Shepherd’s convictions, or if the court finds sufficient evidence and no reversible error in the guilt phase, remand with instructions to vacate count four and order Shepherd’s license suspensions run concurrently.