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Johnthony Walker, 25, testifies during his criminal trial Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018 in Judge Don Poole's courtroom at the Hamilton County Courthouse in Chattanooga, Tenn. Walker described the scene as he came to after the crash on Talley Road that occurred Nov. 21, 2016.

This story was updated Feb. 28, 2018, at 8:36 p.m. with more information.

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Jurors resume deliberations in fatal bus crash case

After deliberating two hours Wednesday, jurors in Hamilton County Criminal Court did not reach a verdict in the case of a 25-year-old bus driver charged with killing six elementary school students.

They will continue their work on the Johnthony Walker case Thursday at 8:45 a.m.

Jurors had a big Wednesday: They heard the rest of the state's proof, watched Walker dispute it on the witness stand, and listened to closing arguments from prosecutors and Walker's defense attorney.

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Johnthony Walker, 25, testifies during his criminal trial Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018 in Judge Don Poole's courtroom at the Hamilton County Courthouse in Chattanooga, Tenn. Prosecutors have charged Walker with 34 crimes, including six counts of vehicular homicide, seven counts of assault and 18 counts of reckless aggravated assault.

Prosecutors said Walker, 25, lost control of his school bus on Nov. 21, 2016, because he was traveling 50 mph on a narrow, curvy road in Brainerd and using his cellphone. Walker ultimately crashed into a walnut tree, killing six of the 37 Woodmore Elementary School students onboard.

Since the trial began Tuesday, prosecutors have called eyewitnesses who saw Walker speeding, traffic officers who reconstructed the scene, and a medical examiner who said the dead children's injuries were consistent with a bus crash.

Officers also downloaded information from Walker's cellphone and said he was on the phone for nearly four minutes at the time of the crash.

Walker's defense attorney disputed much of that.

Amanda Dunn said the Chattanooga Police Department ignored an eyewitness who saw a second vehicle that caused Walker to swerve and said officers who determined Walker's speed were using outdated methods that produced higher results.

Plus, a state witness said she and Walker were on the phone for a few seconds, not minutes, Dunn said. The defense attorney said text messages after the crash showed the witness didn't appear to know anything had happened.

"The state is painting a picture that is not supported by the evidence," Dunn told jurors during closing arguments. "It should concern you that claim after claim is not established."

Prosecutors began Wednesday with Wade Clepper, of the Tennessee Highway Patrol, who said he examined Walker's bus after the crash and found nothing wrong with the brakes or steering.

Next, Steven Cogswell, of the Hamilton County Medical Examiner's Office, recounted the crushed bones, brain injuries and other cuts and bruises the six dead children suffered from the crash.

The prosecution rested its case after both witnesses, giving Walker's defense the chance to put on proof. Walker took the stand and said he wasn't traveling 50 mph and wasn't on the phone.

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Johnthony Walker, 25, is sworn in during his criminal trial Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018 in Judge Don Poole's courtroom at the Hamilton County Courthouse in Chattanooga, Tenn. Walker is standing trial for the Nov. 21, 2016 bus crash in which six of the 37 Woodmore Elementary School students on board died.

Walker admitted he received a call from his friend, Takiesha Nixon. He couldn't recall the exact time but said he had a Bluetooth device that allowed him to receive calls without using his hands.

Walker said he was traveling 35 mph toward a curve in Talley Road when he noticed a second vehicle coming toward him that appeared to be dipping into his lane.

"I was assuming the other vehicle would gradually get back over in his lane," Walker said. "I'm thinking, 'There's either going to be a collision or I can veer out of the way.'"

Walker said he chose to veer right, which sent him off the road. Walker said he overcorrected, but the motion overturned the bus.

Walker said he couldn't find his phone after the crash, but he told Siri through his earpiece to call the police. Siri is an intelligence system that allows a person to speak commands into their iPhone. It didn't work, Walker said.

As he ran around the bus, trying to help the students inside, Walker said, he found a bystander and told him to call for help.

During his cross-examination, Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston asked how Walker located his phone within five minutes of the crash and made six outgoing calls.

"But you couldn't call 911?" Pinkston asked.

Pinkston also questioned whether Walker stayed in his lane when he encountered the second vehicle.

Joe Warren, a Chattanooga officer who determined Walker's speed, said Tuesday no evidence suggested a second vehicle was in Walker's lane of travel. If it had been, Warren said, there would've been a head-on collision based on Walker's tire marks.

"He swerved because he went too fast approaching the curve, overcorrected, then popped over a driveway, creates a bunch of tire marks, strikes a utility pole and wrecks into a tree," Pinkston said in his closing arguments to jurors.

"The fact of the matter is, Walker decided to drive recklessly down Talley Road," Pinkston said. "When we make decisions, we have to live with the results of the consequences."

Jurors began deliberating just before 4 p.m., and Judge Don Poole dismissed them for the evening around 6 p.m.

Walker faces six counts of vehicular homicide, seven counts of assault, 17 counts of reckless aggravated assault, and one count each of reckless endangerment, reckless driving, and use of a portable device by a school bus driver. Authorities said he had no drugs or alcohol in his system.

Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at zpeterson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeterson918.

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