Out-of-town jurors will decide Johnthony Walker's fate in Woodmore bus crash trial

Out-of-town jurors will decide Johnthony Walker's fate in Woodmore bus crash trial

May 15th, 2017 by Zack Peterson in Local Regional News

Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 12/15/16. Media, family, friends and attorneys fill the courtroom as Johnthony Walker, the driver involved in the November 21, 2016 school bus crash that sent 31 of the 37 students on board to the hospital resulting in six fatalities, appears before Judge Lila Statom in Hamilton County General Sessions Court on December 15, 2016 for charges of vehicular homicide, reckless endangerment and reckless driving. Walkerճ case was bound over to the grand jury after an hour and a half of testimony from two Chattanooga Police Department officers.

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

The Times Free Press initially said the out-of-town jurors issue was still pending. That was incorrect: Prosecutors agreed to the request today. The next step is Walker's defense attorney and Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston discussing which county to draw jurors from.

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Prosecutors agreed today to bring out-of-town jurors to Chattanooga to hear the case of the 24-year-old bus driver charged with vehicular homicide in the Woodmore tragedy.

"I think it would be difficult for any citizen in Hamilton County to sit on this jury," defense attorney Amanda Dunn said today. "So it's really for the benefit of all the citizens, the state of Tennessee, and Mr. [Johnthony] Walker to have a fair and impartial jury."

Dunn filed two motions in March after Walker, 24, was indicted on six counts of vehicular homicide, four counts of reckless aggravated assault, and one count each of reckless driving, reckless endangerment, and use of a portable electronic device by a school bus driver.

One called for prosecutors to turn over any evidence they intend to use at trial and the other asked for out-of-town jurors to hear Walker's case because of extensive media coverage.

Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston agreed to both motions today in Criminal Court. He and Dunn will discuss where to draw jurors before Walker's next appearance on July 20.

"I would prefer a metropolitan area," Dunn said, adding there has been significant coverage in Davis County. "We need a place with a diverse population similar to Hamilton County."

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Police say Walker was speeding down Talley Road on Nov. 21 when he overcorrected and swerved into a tree and a telephone pole. Six children died as a result of the accident and several more were injured.

He is named in a dozen or so civil lawsuits along with the Hamilton County Board of Education and Durham School Services, an Illinois-based corporation that provides the majority of transportation here. The majority of those suits are pending while plaintiffs' attorneys request more evidence from Durham's counsel.

In the meantime, the board recently voted to award Durham another two-year contract in Hamilton County because of the various safety changes the company has made to its buses.

This is a developing story. Please check back later.


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