Judge denies motion for new trial for woman convicted in death of Chattanooga police officer

Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Don W. Poole overruled Thursday a motion requesting a new trial for the woman convicted of the 2019 hit-and-run death of a Chattanooga police officer.

Janet Hinds, who was convicted of vehicular manslaughter by intoxication and sentenced to serve 11 years for the hit and run death of Chattanooga Police Officer Nicholas Galinger, appeared in court via video conference as her lawyers petitioned the court for a new trial.

Galinger was killed shortly after 11 p.m. on Feb. 23, 2019, while inspecting an overflowing manhole cover on Hamill Road.

Chattanooga defense attorney Marya Schalk argued her client did not have a fair trial on several points, including that evidence had been omitted at trial showing Hinds' alcohol level was lower than the legal limit the morning after Hinds struck Galinger. She did not explain who had taken that measurement or what it had to do with Hinds' alcohol level at the time of the hit-and-run.

"Twelve of 15 alcohol tests would show an alcohol level of below 0.08 alcohol content," Schalk said.

Hinds did not turn herself in to police until two days after the incident, therefore no field sobriety test had been performed to determine her blood alcohol level.

Schalk also argued that a fair representation of the crime scene under similar conditions to which her client was driving in was not represented at court.

"There was no physical reconstruction done by the Chattanooga police to determine what Ms. Hinds could see," Schalk said.

Schalk further argued that the court allowed prosecutors to attack her co-counsel, Ben McGowan, during his cross-examination of state witness Mike Lytle, the assistant director of the forensic services division of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. She also complained about the photo of Galinger used at court.

Executive Assistant District Attorney Cameron Williams responded to the arguments by saying that "McGowan had free reign" of the courtroom to cross-examine key witnesses.

"A lot was made about [Galinger's] size and stature," Williams said. "Showing the photo demonstrated what he looked like."

Poole said he thought the jury members had all the evidence they needed during deliberations , noting the jury found Hinds guilty of eight of the 10 charges against her, showing the time and consideration taken in their deliberations.

Poole further noted that the evidence of the crime scene presented at court was sufficient for a fair deliberation.

"I think the most important evidence presented was the two videos," Poole said. "One of Officer [Jarrod] Justice and the second of Officer Galinger himself, that showed the manhole and a light being shone and showed the coming down the middle of the road before striking officer Galinger."

Justice was Galinger's field training officer who was at the scene when Hinds' vehicle struck Galinger.

"The fact that the officer's head went through the vehicle, there are no doubts of vehicular manslaughter under intoxication there," Poole said.

Contact La Shawn Pagán at [email protected] or 423-757-6476. Follow her on Twitter @LaShawnPagan.