Jurors won't hear about a 25-year-old bus driver's alleged cursing or prior issues with students when he stands trial next week for killing six children in the 2016 Woodmore crash, a judge has ruled.
If prosecutors believe testimony about Johnthony Walker's prior driving is relevant at his Feb. 27 trial, they can request an out-of-jury hearing, Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Don Poole wrote in an order.
"If the defendant was struggling to maintain order on the bus, as his cursing at them on one or more occasions suggests, it is possible that the students' behavior was a distraction to him at the time of the accident," Poole wrote Feb. 13.
Poole heard evidence from prosecutors earlier this month that Walker cursed at students, sped out of the school parking lot and inappropriately hit the brakes while driving on a couple of occasions.
Walker's defense attorney said testimony wasn't related to the Nov. 21, 2016, crash, while prosecutors said it could show a pattern of behavior. At the time, Poole told attorneys he would issue a ruling before trial.
Because attorneys agreed Chattanoogans were too biased to hear Walker's criminal case, they are selecting out-of-town jurors from Clarksville, Tenn., starting Friday at 9 a.m. Once those jurors are selected, they will be brought to Chattanooga to hear the trial, which begins Feb. 27.
Walker's defense attorney, Amanda Dunn, and District Attorney General Neal Pinkston discussed the selection process Monday with Judge Poole in Hamilton County Criminal Court.
Prosecutors have said Walker, who is out on a reduced $50,000 bond, was speeding on Talley Road, lost control of his bus, and crashed into a tree with 37 Woodmore Elementary School children onboard. Six students died and several others were injured.
Walker faces multiple charges in connection with the Nov. 21, 2016, crash, including six counts of vehicular homicide, seven counts of assault and 18 counts of reckless aggravated assault.
This story was updated Feb. 19, 2018, at 10:24 p.m.