School bus driver involved in crash that killed 6-year-old has conviction dismissed

WARNER ROBBINS, Ga. — On Wednesday, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Houston County bus driver who was convicted on several criminal charges in the death of a six-year-old girl in a January 2018 bus accident.

Shalita Harris, 33, was arrested after authorities said she was at driving dangerous speeds when her bus overturned in Houston County, killing Arlana Haynes and injuring several other children.

Harris was sentenced to three years in prison after being convicted of homicide-by-vehicle in the first degree and reckless driving.

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On Wednesday, the Supreme Court announced its decision to drop the homicide by vehicle conviction, saying the courts applied the wrong legal standards in denying Harris’ request for a new trial, which she made after the trial.

In the request for a new trial, Harris alleged that jurors had engaged in misconduct during deliberations by Googling the available sentences for her charges.


“[T]he concern with injecting sentencing considerations into the guilt-innocence phase of a trial is that, if the jury can ‘discern what sentence(s) the defendant on trial is facing,’ it might ‘use that knowledge to fashion a verdict that will result in the sentence the jury wishes to see imposed upon the defendant being tried,’ rather than deciding the defendant’s guilt or innocence based on the evidence and underlying substantive law provided by the court,” Colvin wrote.

Wednesday’s decision sends Harris’s case back to the Houston County Superior Court for further review.

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