Unknown positions of vehicle occupants at time of crash is focus of defense

Last updated: January 13. 2014 7:13PM - 9993 Views
By - ashepherd@civitasmedia.com

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In the opening day of the anticipated three-day trial of a Hillsboro man charged with vehicular homicide stemming from a November 2012 crash that claimed the life of another Hillsboro man, jurors heard the recounting of the events of the night leading to the crash as well as particulars about evidence collection at the scene.

Logan Walker, 23, was charged with second-degree felony aggravated vehicular homicide in an August 2013 indictment stemming from the crash that took the life of Marshall Banks, who was 22 at the time.

The single-vehicle crash occurred in the early morning hours of Nov. 22 on Green Road in Liberty Township. Though the vehicle belonged to Walker, it has been the focus of the defense attorney Jim Boulger that it is unknown who was driving the Ford F150 truck.

When the crash was reported on in the days following, the Ohio State Highway Patrol said one of the focuses of the investigation was to determine who was driving the vehicle as Banks was ejected from it and Walker was found walking around when first responders arrived.

In her opening statements on Monday, Highland County Prosecutor Anneka Collins pointed out that Walker’s blood alcohol levels were two times higher than the state’s legal limit and she asserted that Walker was the one driving his own vehicle.

Boulger also brought up in opening statements that because of surveillance video, it is known that Walker and Banks stopped at Holtfield Station shortly before the crash, though Boulger said that it is not clear in the video who got into the driver’s seat upon leaving.

In pretrials hearings, Boulger has said that Walker has no recollection of the crash or the events leading up to it and on Monday he reiterated that to jurors in his opening statements and pointed out that the defense was not contesting Walker’s blood alcohol levels, but told jurors that Banks’ blood alcohol levels were just as elevated.

Later on Monday after jurors had been dismissed for the day, and after several muted discussions at the bench between attorneys and the judge during the course of the day, Judge Rocky Coss said he would not allow those levels to be discussed as Banks was not on trial and he believes the focus of Boulger’s arguments to be on who was driving the vehicle.

Jurors heard testimony Mondays from state’s witnesses, one of which is a resident of Green Road and who called 911. She said was awakened by the crash but did not observe anyone leaving the vehicle. All she could see, she said, was that a vehicle had crashed and she did not see a person until the ambulance arrived and she saw a silhouetted figure “jump up.” She said it was six or seven minutes from the time of her call until first responders arrived and she did not approach the scene at any time.

Testimony was also heard from Tye Gilliland and Sabrina Thiel who were with Walker and Banks shortly before the crash occurred. Each one testified that while they saw Walker with a drink at the two places they went, they had no concerns as to his driving and, to their knowledge, Walker was driving the vehicle after they were dropped off at a residence an hour or so before the crash.

Testimony was heard throughout the day from several troopers with the Ohio State Highway Patrol concerning the collection and analysis of evidence.

Boulger, in his opening statement, pointed out the difference in size in Walker and Banks. Walker is more than six feet tall and Banks stood at five feet, seven inches. Boulger said this would have made a difference in the placement of the driver’s seat in relation to the pedals, but through his cross examination of the troopers that processed the crash scene, this was not something that was looked at.

Dr. Susan Alan, a forensic pathologist with Montgomery County, testified as an expert witness and is the one who performed Banks’ autopsy, concluding that he died from “multiple blunt force injuries.”

Dr. Lori Bankston, a doctor at Highland District Hospital who was over the emergency room on Nov. 22, 2012 and assessed Walker for his injuries testified that while Walker was intoxicated, he had also suffered a head injury as well as two fractured lumbar vertebrae. While she testified that neither injury ended up being particularly serious, she said Walker repeated himself “several times,” and Boulger referred to the patient notes that mentioned amnesia.

It is a term Bankston said she doesn’t typically use, but noted that the doctor who came in after her had made those notes.

She did say that it was unknown whether Walker’s lack of remembering either the events that brought him to the hospital or the things that happened while he was there were a product of the intoxication or the head injury.

OSHP criminalist Edward Yingling testified that he tested Walker’s blood samples taken the morning of the crash and, according to his report, Walker’s blood alcohol level was .18. The legal limit is .08. The samples were also tested for other substances, he said, but none were found.

According to evidence introduced by the state, blood samples and buccal swabs were collected from both Walker and Banks, and both the driver and passenger side airbags, which had both been deployed at some point in the crash, were collected from the scene and later swabbed for DNA evidence. Hairs were also collected at the scene and were later analyzed at BCI.

BCI forensic scientist Sara Smith, testifying as an expert witness, analyzed the samples from both airbags and said that her results were inconclusive from the driver’s side airbag, but that the samples from the passenger side airbag were consistent with contributions from both Walker and Banks, she said in cross examination by Boulger.

Upon redirect questioning by Collins, Smith said on the driver’s side she was able to determine the DNA evidence was inconclusive for Walker, but Banks was not a contributor.

Smith also tested the hair samples collected from the scene. One sample was collected from the passenger side roof lining and found to belong to Banks. Out of two other hair samples collected, Smith said one had no profile and the other was from an “unknown individual.”

The hair that belonged to Banks was collected from an area of the passenger side roof lining near the door and in an area that had experienced “crush” due to the rolling of the vehicle, according to testimony by OSHP troopers who collected the evidence and took photographs at the scene.

OSHP crash reconstructionist Tytus Gilliland testified as to how he determined the course of the accident through the use of a measuring tool, similar to what surveyors use and know as a “total station,” as well as the application of various “accepted” numbers based on years of studies, the observable evidence of the crash, surface types, and how the frictional values and drag factors were calculated.

The trooper testified that according to his calculations, the vehicle was traveling within a speed range of 76 to 90 miles per hour. The trooper agreed with the prosecution when she asked if his calculations were based on a “degree of scientific certainty,” but also admitted upon cross examination that an element of speculation is involved in the process.

On Tuesday jurors will hear from one more state’s witness before the defense begins presenting its case.

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