Steven L. Willis has been driving for 22 of his 38 years. He gets ticketed nearly twice a year. Mainly he speeds. Sometimes he drives without insuance, or without a seat belt, or squeals his tires.
He got at least 40 tickets, just in St. Clair and Madison counties. He received court supervision 29 times — five times in a single year — and as long as he was good for the next 90 days, the offense would not become part of his driving record.
Clean record after 40 tickets, then on Oct. 23 he ran into Samantha Miller, 27, of Swansea and her three children.
Miller had a flat on the side of Interstate 55. Her three children were in the car as she tried to deal with the tire.
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Willis said he had a few beers after work. The breath alcohol test registered 0.12, too drunk to drive in Illinois.
He hit Miller and her car. The photo of her car makes it hard to imagine how those three youngsters survived the crash that took their mom.
You can be angry that Miller is dead. You can be angry that Willis drove while intoxicated. You can not be angry that he received court supervision 29 times, because that is the system we allowed.
Maybe we should be angry at the misnomer: “court supervision” involves neither.
Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons said part of the Willis problem is that prosecutors cannot see the records in other counties.
Well, that’s not true. Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White wrote the BND to say Gibbons did have a computer system available. Plus anyone online can look up Willis’ driving record on either the St. Clair or Madison county circuit clerks’ web sites and see the litany of charges and clearances thanks to “court supervision.”
The issue is that Willis showed a pattern no one recognized as significant. He understood the system and played by the rules — until Oct. 23.