Shocked. Stunned. Dismayed. Disgusted. Angry.
Those are just a few of the reactions to the acquittal of William K. Johnson, who was charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter for running over bicyclists Larry Gaunt and his 14-year-old granddaughter Sierra last August in Grandview, Missouri.
The police report and accident reconstruction showed that Johnson had been speeding at the time he struck the Gaunts, and his contention that the cyclists swerved in front of him was refuted by three witnesses.
Reports from the trial said that when Johnson took the stand he immediately began to cry, and his show of remorse must have moved the jury, who deliberated for five hours, but ultimately set Johnson free, with no criminal consequences for his recklessness that took the lives of two people.
A few quotes:
“I don’t know anywhere you can go where you can plow over two people, send them hundreds of feet through the air and walk away like nothing happened,” Anthony Gaunt (father of Sierra and son of Larry) said. “Justice was not served here today.”
“A jury just told everybody that, ‘Yeah it’s sad if someone gets killed, but it’s okay, you’re not responsible,’ and that scares me.”
Assistant prosecutor Traci Stansell asked Johnson, “Do you know what ‘share the road’ means?” “Yes,” he answered. More than once, Johnson was asked why he didn’t move over into the clear left lane. Force of habit, he replied. It was, he said, his driving style.
In the end, I think you have to trust that the jury took their responsibilities seriously, and reached a reasonable decision based on the evidence presented and the way the current laws are written. But still, sometimes you have to wonder…
Additional coverage: Johnson not guilty in deaths of bicyclists and Driver acquitted in deaths of two from the Kansas City Star, Jury Acquits Man Accused In Deadly Wreck from KCTV, Not Guilty Verdict Angers Gaunt Family from KSHB, ‘Justice Was Not Served Here,’ Family Says from WDAF, A killer walks free from KC Bike Commuting, Johnson found not guilty of Gaunt deaths from KCBike.info, Not Guilty verdict in the Gaunt double fatality case from the Missouri Bicycle Federation, Grandview Police Report, Verdict in cyclists’ deaths proves need for tougher laws from Mike Hendricks