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Man who ran down skater gets 15 years

A judge cuts little slack for the legally blind driver in the hit-run case, who had once shown up in court intoxicated.

By COLLEEN JENKINS
Published July 1, 2006


TAMPA - Mark J. Doyle got a 15-year prison sentence Friday for proving he couldn't be rehabilitated, an official said.

He got behind the wheel the night of Jan. 12, 2004, even though he didn't have a license, was legally blind, suffered from seizures and had been declared an alcoholic.

He hit and killed a 22-year-old man, then didn't stick around to figure out what had happened.

He showed up drunk for his sentencing hearing in April, prosecutor Kim Seace said.

"If the sobering fact that he killed a man does not knock him off the bottle," Seace said, "nothing will."

Seace's comment drove home the point first made in April by the family of Derrick Miller, a University of South Florida senior who was skating with friends on Apollo Beach Boulevard the night Doyle hit him.

The April hearing was cut short when Doyle, 46, had a seizure during a court recess.

At a hospital later that day, a urine test indicated Doyle was intoxicated, Seace said. When Doyle arrived back in Circuit Judge Debra Behnke's court June 19 wearing a suit, she sent him to jail to await the rest of his sentencing.

Doyle and his family shared the sad tale of his life Friday. How he overcame a childhood speech impediment and went on to become a health nut with a magnetic personality. How things went downhill when he suffered a severe broken ankle and a skull fracture and turned into a hermit who lived beneath his boat.

Michael Doyle said he didn't forgive his brother's choices - Mark Doyle got arrested for driving under the influence in 1998 - but he asked the judge to not heap all on the blame on the man in handcuffs.

Miller and his friends, Michael Doyle said, were skating on a dark road wearing dark clothing.

"These orbits of bad choices collided in a horrific accident," Michael Doyle said.

Dr. Walter Afield, who examined Mark Doyle, said it seemed his brain had been "fried by alcohol" and suggested more medical attention was needed to get a handle on Doyle's seizures.

Miller's parents and two older sisters looked on from the gallery. They felt like they had visited this courtroom far too many times. Holly Miller, his mother, clutched a framed photo of the young man who loved to tinker on cars, computers and boats.

They cringed when Doyle's attorney, Dale Gabbard, questioned whether his client was competent enough to proceed with sentencing.

They felt little compassion when Doyle turned to them to apologize. They knew the police reports said Miller was skating in the right lane when Doyle accelerated, switched from the left to the right lane and hit Miller.

"I will go to my grave knowing that I failed that night," Doyle told them.

Behnke decided not to take any chances. She handed down the 15-year sentence, the cap agreed upon by prosecutors and the defense.

Doyle sounded lucid when he spoke, she said, but she also ruled that two experts should examine him for a sound mind just in case.

"It's particularly tragic what you've done to your life," she said.

Miller's family left the courtroom in tears. Robert Miller said he never wanted to return there again.

Colleen Jenkins can be reached at 813 226-3337 or cjenkins@sptimes.com.

[Last modified June 30, 2006, 23:23:42]


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