Woman convicted in deadly wrong-way crash appears in court

Attorneys for an Indianapolis woman convicted of killing six children and a 40-year-old man in a head-on traffic collision asked a judge for a new trial Thursday, arguing in part she had inadequate legal counsel.

Judy Kirby's attorneys also argued that evidence that she may have been dealing drugs should not have been admitted into evidence and jurors were given improper instructions. Public defender John Pinnow said Kirby was mentally ill at the time and did not intend to kill anyone.

Authorities have said Kirby, now 44, was bent on suicide on March 25, 2000, when she drove the wrong way on Indiana Route 67 near Martinsville and collided head-on with a minivan, killing four children in her car and a man and his two teenage children in the other vehicle. The only survivors of the crash were Kirby and a teenage friend of the children in the minivan.

Kirby was convicted of seven counts of murder, four counts of child neglect and one count of battery.

Judge Jane Craney, who presided over Kirby's 2001 trial and sentenced her to 215 years in prison, said she saw little merit in the arguments that Kirby received ineffective counsel and the drug-dealing evidence should not have been admitted.

Craney called the claim of bad legal representation "ludicrous," saying the now late attorney Tom Jones of Franklin was a seasoned criminal lawyer, "a legend in central Indiana." She said evidence of Kirby's involvement with drugs was debated in numerous hearings and that her ruling was legally sound.

Craney said she would research the law and review court records to determine if an error was made in the jury instructions. She said she will rule after receiving written arguments from prosecutors and defense attorneys, a process that could take 12 weeks.

Morgan County Prosecutor Steve Sonnega spoke after the hearing to Louise Reel, whose husband and two children died in the crash, The Herald-Times reported. Sonnega said he was confident Kirby's convictions would stand.

"We put our heart and soul into this case. We all did," he told Reel.

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