Daughters are 'magnanimous' in wake of mother's death


Judge Bill Richards looks at a video of the April sentencing, where Adrienne and Haliegh Diehl spoke about their mother.


by Tom Kirvan
Legal News        

Over the span of his 42-year legal career, Bill Richards has worked as a federal prosecutor, a deputy attorney general, and a district court judge.

And despite that breadth of experience, Richards was not prepared for what he heard in Southfield’s 46th District Court some six weeks ago – either as a jurist or as a man of faith.

In short, Judge Richards witnessed “the most generous outpouring of forgiveness and compassion for another human being that I have seen in 7 years on the bench or that I have ever seen in my life.”

His statement came after an April 16 sentencing hearing in which the defendant, a then-66-year-old woman from Farmington Hills, faced the likelihood of jail time for her role in a fatal accident last summer.

The crash, which occurred on Aug. 10, 2013, claimed the life of Patricia A. Shaw of Monroe, who was the passenger in a car driven by her friend, William J. Cortese. The two were traveling west at an intersection when they were broadsided by a Chevrolet Impala driven by Linda F. Nokes of Farmington Hills.

According to an investigation conducted by Southfield Police, Nokes was headed southbound on Lahser around 6:15 p.m. when she mistakenly ran a red light, plowed into a 1969 Mercury Cougar, killed Shaw and seriously injured Cortese.

Nokes was headed home from her job in Troy when the accident took place, telling police that she believed that she had the green light. Cortese and Shaw were returning from a car show during Dream Cruise week and looking for a place to eat in Southfield when the crash occurred, according to a police interview of Cortese, who suffered a broken arm and a broken hip, and received in-home medical care for several months.

Eyewitness accounts and a video recording of the crash taken from a gas station’s surveillance system confirmed that Nokes ran the red light and was solely at fault, according to the police investigation.

Investigators indicated that there was no evidence of drug or alcohol use by Nokes; she had not been texting or talking on a cell phone when the accident happened. At impact, she was traveling at a speed estimated between 43-46 mph, police stated.
Nokes, according to police, suffered no injuries in the crash.

By all accounts, Nokes had a spotless driving record and has been a valuable employee at Depor Industries, Inc. in Troy. The general manager of the metal finishing operation, Ted Howard, submitted to the court a letter of support for Nokes, indicating how “he wishes his children could grow up to be a person like her.” 

At the sentencing proceeding, Nokes’s attorney, Juan Mateo of Detroit, stressed that “this was a tragedy of unmitigated proportions” for which his client expressed great remorse.

“There’s no question in my mind when she was driving that car on August the 10th last year, she thought she was going through a green light, and unfortunately she was wrong,” Mateo said, according to a transcript. “She has . . . struggled with . . . the reality of what she has caused,” he added, noting that  “she has no criminal history” on her record. 

“All she does is work,” Mateo told the court. “She lives alone and she goes to work.”

Nokes, when afforded the opportunity to address the court, was brief in her remarks, saying, “how sorry I am that the whole thing happened and I wish there was something I could do to change it, but there’s not.” 

The admission resonated with sisters Haliegh and Adrienne Diehl, daughters of crash victim Shaw. The two appeared at the April 16 hearing, each addressing the court before the sentencing was imposed.

“I just wanna say that  . . . the only thing that we all want is for my mom to be back,” Haliegh Diehl said, tears streaming down her face. “But that’s not possible. And I understand that this was an accident and what my mom was very passionate about was veterans and helping out a lot of people,” she added, urging the court to sentence Nokes to community service work on behalf of veterans instead of jail time.

A full time student at Monroe Community College, the 19-year-old Diehl is pursuing a degree in criminal justice, a fact not lost on Judge Richards.

“There certainly is some irony there,” Richards told Diehl before listening to a statement from her 20-year-old sister, Adrienne.

The loss, she said, has been devastating to the entire family, which includes her 23-year-old brother and their grandparents. “My mom was my best friend...,” Diehl said. “I live 5 minutes from her. And I agree with my sister, I don’t think jail time is necessary at all. It was an accident. It could have been the other way around, she could have hit her. I just feel like she needs to know. I understand the remorse, I understand the sorries, but it just changed us a lot.”  

When asked by Richards to expound, Diehl reiterated that her mother was her best friend. “I told her everything. I talked to her every day,” Diehl said. “We’ve already [gone] through Christmas without her; it’s her favorite holiday. She won’t be able to see us get married.  She won’t be able to see us have kids.  She won’t be able to see us at anything. She’s not here.”

Now, said Haliegh, “When we visit her, we have to visit a gravesite instead of actually going and seeing her.”

Following the statements, Richards adjourned the proceedings, offering him some time to “fully process what I had just heard” and to “revise my sentence.” On his return 20 minutes later, Richards had words of praise for the Diehl sisters.

“Haliegh and Adrienne, if I see your mother in both of you and I think I do, your mother is very proud of you today,” Richards said. “You have somehow overcome your grief at her premature death to help bring a sense of justice to this courtroom... You’ve not given in to anger, revenge or hate. You have risen above these reactions to show compassion, forgiveness, and understanding far beyond your years and I’m proud of you for that as I’m sure your mother, father, and grandparents are. May we all learn from your profound example today and how beauty and justice can arise from tragedy. I believe you will heal faster and more completely because . . . of what you have done here today.”

Accordingly, Richards opted not to sentence Nokes to any jail time, instead placing her on 18 months probation, while ordering her to pay a series of court-mandated fines and costs, and restitution for any uninsured medical expenses faced by Mr. Cortese, the driver of the other vehicle.  In line with the wishes of the decedent’s family, the probation also includes volunteer work at a Veterans Administration Hospital.
In February, Nokes had pleaded guilty to committing a moving violation causing death; and  committing a moving violation causing serious impairment of a bodily function. “I’ve thought about this case many times over the weeks and months that it’s been pending on my docket, particularly since you pleaded guilty back in February and I, too, have come to the conclusion that this was an accident in every sense of the word, although it had devastating consequences,” Judge Richards told Nokes. “It truly is a lesson to all of us to pay more attention while we’re driving...”

On Good Friday, two days after he issued the sentence, Richards visited Shaw’s gravesite. By chance, he crossed paths with Shaw’s son, D.J., as well as two of her close friends.

A few weeks later, Richards wrote a letter to the Diehl sisters, saluting them for their strength and compassion.

“I have told many people about your story,” Richards wrote. “Anyone who listened to your story could tell that you both loved your Mother. They could tell you miss your Mother. And they could tell that you were deeply wounded by the loss of your Mother.
“Yet, you showed incredible compassion and understanding in not asking for jail sentences. I told your story to an attorney in my court today. He said you were both magnanimous. That describes you well. Not many people are magnanimous. It is easier to ask for vengeance.”

Added Richards: “Let us hope that your example can lead others to honor you and your Mother by living the values that your Mother taught you, and that you so nobly expressed.”