Alaska Supreme Court tosses highest-ever sentence for vehicular homicide, in case of drunk driver who killed teens in 2013

The seal of the state of alaska as seen from below
The seal of the state of Alaska hangs on April 19, 2018, behind the dais where Alaska Supreme Court justices normally hear cases in the Boney Courthouse in Anchorage. (Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)

An Anchorage man in prison for killing two teenage girls while driving drunk nearly a decade ago will be resentenced after an Alaska Supreme Court decision Friday.

Stacey Graham, now 40, swerved off a South Anchorage road in August of 2013, striking and killing Jordyn Durr and Brooke McPheters, both 15, as they were walking on a sidewalk next to the road.

Graham later pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder, and a judge sentenced him to 40 years in prison, with eight years suspended. As the Supreme Court noted in its opinion, it was the highest-ever sentence in Alaska for an unintentional vehicular homicide.

Graham took responsibility for the crime, saying at his sentencing hearing he wanted to warn others against driving drunk and that, “it only takes once. It can, it will, it did.”

But Graham appealed the sentence, and the state Court of Appeals decided Graham should be resentenced. State prosecutors appealed that decision, and the Supreme Court has now also ordered Graham to be resentenced.

According to the Supreme Court’s opinion, the sentencing judge in Graham’s case should not have allowed two police officers to testify as victims impacted by the crime, nor should the judge have allowed two victim tribute videos that were played at the sentencing without first reviewing that for “relevance and unfair prejudice.”

There is no date set for Graham’s new sentencing hearing. According to the state Department of Law, Graham will remain in custody.

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Casey Grove is the host of Alaska News Nightly and a general assignment reporter at Alaska Public Media with an emphasis on crime and courts. Reach him at cgrove@alaskapublic.org.