The trial of Janet Hinds, the woman who allegedly struck and killed Chattanooga police officer Nicholas Galinger with her car and fled the scene in 2019, began Monday before Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Don Poole.
The jury includes 11 women and five men from Davidson County.
In his opening statement, prosecutor Cameron Williams said Galinger died because Janet Hinds had too much to drink that night and decided to drive. She was driving in the middle of the road faster than the 35 mph speed limit, and she didn't attempt to brake before hitting Galinger, who was standing under a streetlight behind or near a reflective barrier.
She drove away without reporting the accident to the police, Williams said.
"All Janet Hinds had to do was get a ride home," Williams said.
The prosecution showed screen grabs of camera footage that appeared to show Hinds drinking at Farm to Fork, the Ringgold, Georgia, restaurant where Hinds had been before the crash.
According to Williams, Hinds had her first drink, a 20-ounce Blue Moon beer, from 7:09-8:13 p.m. She drank another 20-ounce Blue Moon from 8:15-8:57 p.m. At 9:07 p.m., she had a lemon drop shot, which included an ounce-and-a-half of vodka. Her fourth drink was a 16-ounce Michelob Ultra that she consumed from 9:15-10:08 p.m., and she had her final drink, another 16-ounce Michelob Ultra, from 10:11-10:29 p.m.
Defense attorney Ben McGowan said the prosecution's account of the alcohol consumed by Hinds is inaccurate, and that Galinger's death was a tragedy "brought about by a perfect storm of players." He said the accident was not a result of Hinds' impairment, and she did not know she hit Galinger when she left the scene.
McGowan said Hinds only had one Blue Moon, which was 22 ounces and not 20 ounces as the prosecution had said. After drinking the one Blue Moon her son bought her, Hinds then "downshifted" to Michelob Ultra — which is 4.7% alcohol by volume, less than the 5.2% for Blue Moon — for her next three drinks, two of which were 16 ounces and the other was 22 ounces. McGowan also said she had a lemon drop shot.
McGowan said Hinds' driving speed was consistent with the speed of traffic on that straight portion of the road.
Chattanooga police officer Jarrod Justice, Galinger's field training officer, failed to illuminate the manhole area with his headlights or by turning on the blue lights of his patrol car, McGowan said. Both officers were wearing dark clothing, and neither were wearing the reflective vests provided to all officers.
McGowan said the city of Chattanooga is named in a $25 million lawsuit filed by Galinger's family alleging the city is responsible for Galinger's death because of the choices made by his field training officer and the state of the road that night.
Janet Hinds' daughter-in-law, Melissa Hinds, testified that she asked her mother-in-law two or three times if she wanted a ride home, but said she asked because of the rainy weather and because of convenience, since they were attending the same birthday party in the Ringgold area the following day.
Janet Hinds called her daughter-in-law shortly after the accident to tell her that she had hit a road sign and would need a ride to the party the next day, Melissa Hinds testified.
Melissa Hinds said the next morning, she received a text message from her husband, Janet Hinds' son, about a news broadcast that an officer had been hit.
She saw the car in the driveway, and sent her husband a text message that she saw hair in the broken windshield.
Contact Emily Crisman at email@example.com.