Christine Tinner tells judge her restorative justice sentence is flawed |

Christine Tinner tells judge her restorative justice sentence is flawed

Lauren Glendenning
The Aspen Times
Christine Tinner, the motorist who crossed a center line on Highway 133 leading to the death of college student Meleyna Kistner, exits Pitkin County Court after being sentenced in April to five years of probation, 350 hours of community service and a $1,000 fine.
Jeremy Wallace/The Aspen Times |

Christine Tinner wept in court Tuesday afternoon as she told Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely that she’s sat through enough victim’s impact panels as part of her sentence in the Highway 133 death of Meleyna Kistner.

In April, Tinner was sentenced to five years of unsupervised probation and 360 hours of community service, which must be completed within three years. Part of the community-service sentence is that Tinner is required to complete about 25 to 50 hours under the 9th Judicial District’s restorative-justice program, but there’s been a lack of clarity from the court about its expectations for that program, Tinner’s attorney Dan Shipp said. The program is fairly new in Pitkin County, and there’s just not a definitive formula to make it work yet, Shipp said.

Tinner pleaded guilty in February to two misdemeanors relating to the August death of Kistner, 21, who had been on a road trip through the West with her boyfriend when Tinner’s vehicle crossed the center line on Highway 133 south of Carbondale, striking Kistner’s vehicle head-on.

Tinner said she understood the restorative-justice program to require various writing and journaling exercises in addition to a project that also would serve as a memorial to Kistner. Tinner has plans to work on developing a mobile application that would help alert drivers when they’re too tired to drive, the proceeds of which could fund a scholarship in Kistner’s memory. Tinner said she has a friend willing to finance the project and also someone who has agreed to supervise the hours she puts into it, but what she’s missing is more clarity from the court as well as the paperwork she needs to get started.

Jennie Curtis, the restorative-justice facilitator, told Fernandez-Ely in court Tuesday that she’s recommending to put Tinner into one-on-one dialogues with other victims who have lost loved ones in vehicular accidents. Curtis clarified that she is not doing therapy with Tinner, although she acknowledged that the work could be interpreted as such.

Tinner said the restorative-justice program is going in a completely different direction from what was expected. Between the victims panel, sitting on a Mothers Against Drunk Driving panel — despite the fact that Tinner tested negative for alcohol at the hospital following the crash — and a requirement to do other volunteer work in prisons, Tinner doesn’t understand how it’s helping.

“I’ve already sat through three different court hearings listening to the poor family and all the suffering that they’ve been through. I’ve listened to 21 people talk about all their pain and suffering, and it put me in the hospital,” Tinner said, referring to the March hearing in which she had an emotional breakdown in court and was hospitalized. “I really don’t see how that’s going to help. And Ms. Curtis says she has to see if I have compassion, insight and accountability — well, who made her the judge?”

Tinner went on for a couple of minutes in what felt like a lecture to the judge, adding that she’s been passed over for jobs due to the “huge ordeal.” She said she just wants some sanity back so she can focus on being a good mother.

Tinner cried and even sobbed at times, and while Fernandez-Ely also had been emotional in previous hearings, she wasn’t on Tuesday.

Tinner wept and said she’d had an accident, but the judge reminded her that she had killed someone.

“I don’t want to go through this over again,” Fernandez-Ely said.

She agreed to look at the restorative-justice component again and asked Tinner to submit her proposal for the mobile application project again. She set another hearing for Friday at 4 p.m. — a hearing Shipp said he hopes will clear up the ambiguity surrounding Tinner’s sentence.

“We’re going to get everybody to sit down and come to a head-to-head meeting so there’s an absolute understanding about what’s going on,” he said.


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