A defense attorney for the 25-year-old bus driver charged in connection with the deadly Woodmore crash last November is expected to argue this week that a large vehicle caused her client to veer to the right to avoid a collision.
"There was insufficient room in the roadway for these two vehicles to pass safely, and Mr. [Johnthony] Walker steered the bus to the right to avoid a collision with the other vehicle in question," defense attorney Amanda Dunn wrote in a motion filed Friday.
Video footage will confirm the circumstances, as well as an eyewitness, who reported the second vehicle to the Chattanooga Police Department, Dunn said.
Walker's bus ultimately overturned that Nov. 21 afternoon on Talley Road in Brainerd, killing six Woodmore Elementary children and injuring 31 others. Walker has been incarcerated in isolation at Hamilton County Jail since.
He faces six counts of vehicular homicide, 18 counts of reckless aggravated assault, seven counts of assault, and one count each of reckless endangerment, reckless driving and use of a portable electronic device by a school bus driver.
During his preliminary hearing in December, prosecutors said Walker was traveling about 50 mph in a 30 mph zone when the crash occurred. Dunn wrote there is some dispute about the speed at the time of the incident. She said Walker encountered the vehicle "as he approached a turn in Talley Road."
Some things, however, are unclear from Dunn's motion, such as when the eyewitness reported the second vehicle to police, whether police followed up on the information, or the identity of the second driver.
The National Transportation Safety Board, which released a preliminary report in January, is still working on a final report.
The information, which wasn't on record until Friday, is part of Dunn's larger argument that Walker should receive an alternative sentencing program known as diversion. That program would allow Walker to get his case dropped and expunged if he successfully completes probation, community service or some other court-ordered program.
Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Don Poole will hear arguments Thursday from Dunn and the state.
In addition to the video surveillance, Dunn said she plans to call witnesses who will testify that Walker was a quiet artist who avoided gang culture and worked two jobs.
Walker had no prior criminal history and no drugs or alcohol in his system, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
"A permanent criminal record and possible incarceration of a young man who has always been a productive member of society does nothing but make Johnthony Walker a statistic," Dunn wrote in her motion.
This is a developing story. Please check back later for more information.