Court upholds Johns verdict

The Orange County Superior Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld the conviction of Janene Johns, who fatally struck local teacher Candace Tift with her car in 2006.

In a unanimous decision, associate justices Raymond J. Ikola, Richard D. Fybel and William F. Rylaarsdam affirmed Johns’ conviction and Orange County Superior Court Judge Daniel McNerny’s sentence.

Attorneys argued the case in front of the appeals panel in mid-August. Decisions can take up to 90 days to be issued.

Johns, an Irvine mother of three, was convicted last year and sentenced to six years in prison for killing Tift with her car in Newport Beach. Tift was riding her bike on the sidewalk on West Coast Highway when Johns drove her Lexus onto the sidewalk and struck her from behind.

Johns could be out of prison in less than two years, if she gets credit for good behavior. She was convicted of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence.

During the trial last year, witnesses testified that Johns said she didn’t know what happened. Prosecutors contend she fell asleep at the wheel after taking a sleep aid hours before the crash. Johns was driving herself to Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian for shoulder pain.

Doctors found a mix of Xanax, Ambien and a cough suppressant in Johns’ system after the crash. She had been on the drugs due to an illness and to deal with the grief after her husband’s death months earlier.

Tift was a teacher at Eastbluff Elementary School and has a son, Owen.

Tift’s family is suing Johns and the doctors who they claim did not properly inform her about the dangers of driving while under the influence of her medications.

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