Tears flowed on both sides of a Jefferson County courtroom Monday as a 24-year-old Birmingham woman learned her fate for a street racing crash that killed an innocent Jefferson County grandmother.
Carmesia Flannigan, 24, was convicted in October of a reduced charge of reckless manslaughter in the March 21, 2021, death of 52-year-old Brandy Ballard.
Flannigan had been charged with murder.
Following the deadly crash and Flannigan’s arrest, she posted two separate, expletive laced Facebook Live videos blaming Ballard for the crash.
“That old ass lady swerved in my lane,’’ Flannigan said in a video.
The videos were deleted from Facebook but were posted to YouTube and had thousands of views.
Ballard’s niece and son both addressed the court Monday, saying they have forgiven Flannigan.
They also played an audio tape of Ballard recorded shortly before her death in which Ballard praised God and all he had done in her life.
“We never know what God’s plan is for us in our lives,’’ Ballard said on that fateful recording. “Even though it don’t seem right at times, our Father in Heaven knows what he’s doing. He’s preparing us for a better place.”
Flannigan also addressed the court, saying she is remorseful for causing Ballard’s death. She repeatedly wiped her eyes with a tissue during the proceedings.
“I thank them for forgiving me,’’ she said.
Jefferson County Circuit Judge Teresa Pulliam had harsh words for the defendant and addressed the Facebook Live videos before sentencing Flannigan to 17 years in prison.
“These are your words Miss Flannigan – ‘She did it to her mother f-ing self when she ran into me,’’’ the judge said. “That speaks volumes to me, and I cannot get it out of my mind.”
The judge, however, did tell Flannigan there was a light at the end of the tunnel if she wanted there to be.
“You can be redeemed,’’ Pulliam said.
Ballard, a home health care worker and grandmother of five, was on her way to work just after 6 a.m. that Sunday when authorities say her 2007 Ford Focus was struck by a 2010 Chevrolet Camaro that crossed over the center lane of traffic.
Police and coroner’s officials said investigators believe the Camaro was racing another vehicle at the time of the deadly crash.
The crash happened at 6:10 a.m. and Ballard was pronounced dead four minutes later. She was just two blocks from her home.
Police said witnesses observed vehicles racing prior to the accident.
Flannigan was arrested the day after the deadly accident on charges of murder, leaving the scene of an accident with injury and unlawful possession of a controlled substance. She was released the following day after posting $175,000 bond.
The charges of leaving the scene and possession of drugs were dismissed.
Ballard’s niece, Amanda Moore, described Ballard as a beautiful person. She said she wanted Flannigan to think about Ballard every day that she spends in prison.
“She has to deal with that for the rest of her life,’’ Amanda Moore said. “I forgive her. I just won’t never forget and I hope that God can forgive her.”
Ballard’s son, Preston Moore, talked about his mother’s struggle with addiction and her recovery. She had been sober for three years when she was killed, and he described her as the “crown jewel” of their family.
Preston Moore said he was in active addiction when his mother was killed, and said it took him going to prison to “cry out to God,” and to achieve his own sobriety.
“My prayer for the defendant is to know the Lord and find peace,’’ he said. “I have forgiven the defendant in my heart and in my soul and I know that God has a plan for her because He has a plan for all of us.”
Flannigan’s sister, Cariyauna Hall, spoke on the defendant’s behalf.
She talked about her sister being raised in foster homes and the trauma and abuse she suffered in the system.
“I know in my heart that my sister is not an evil person,’’ Hall said through sobs.
“She has a son. He’s 6 years old. I don’t want him to grow up without a mom because I know how hard that is.”
Hall told Ballard’s family that she was sorry it happened. “I know it hurts,” she said.
As for her sister, Hall said, “She’s only 24. She has her whole life ahead of her. I don’t want her just thrown down the drain for one mistake she didn’t mean to do.”Flannigan’s attorney said the trauma of her childhood led to her actions that morning and the subsequent Facebook Live videos. He asked she be sentenced to 20 years with five to serve.
Jefferson County Chief Deputy District Attorney Joe Roberts, however, asked for the maximum sentence – 20 years behind bars.
He said Flannigan had been up partying all night at the Onyx Club, was legally drunk and had drugs in her system when Ballard was struck.
She was doing 80 mph in a 30 mile-per-hour zone and the impact internally decapitated Ballard.
“She made a choice and must live with consequences,’’ Roberts said. “She had no concern for anyone else’s safety.”
“The jury has already given her a break by convicting her of reckless manslaughter as opposed to extreme indifference murder,’’ Roberts said. “She has received the only break she deserves in this case.”