Testimony begins in deputy's reckless homicide trial
July 2008, Picture of Sgt. Killings' car after the accident.
Picture of Sgt. Killings' car windshield after the accident.
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Testimony got underway Tuesday in the reckless homicide trial of the former Rutherford County sheriff's detective accused in the July 2008 traffic death of a young girl.
The jury will decide if Sgt. Ron Killings was reckless behind the wheel on the night 11-year-old Lakeisha White was killed or if it was a tragic accident, as the defense claims.
The court heard opening statements from both attorneys and testimony from three officers who worked the crash scene.
Prosecutor Joe Baugh told the jury the state will prove that Killings was a distracted driver that night, he was using a cell phone at the time of the crash and was driving down Bradyville Pike at twice the legal speed limit, without his emergency lights or siren on.
"That he was talking on a cell phone and the state's theory is that he was not paying attention to this area and that he, as a deputy sheriff and being familiar with the area, should have perceived the risk that there would be pedestrians in the road and that his disregard of this risk was reckless conduct," Baugh said.
He said White was hit with such force that the airbags of Killings's car had deployed and the front of the vehicle was "crumpled."
Defense attorney Terry Fann told jurors their side will prove White's death was just a terrible accident and Killings didn't attempt to avoid White because he never saw her and had no way of knowing she would dart into the roadway at 8:45 p.m. at night.
"Ladies and gentlemen the facts will not show this is a homicide," Fann said. "There will be no facts that show he intended to run over this little girl. There will be no facts that show that he knew she was going to run out in his lane [of travel]."
Fann said Killings was on his way to assist a fellow officer who had requested back up at the time of the accident.
He said that sometimes bad things happen to good people and the incident has affected not only White's family, but also Killings' family.
The prosecution made it through four witnesses Tuesday night, and still has a long list of other witnesses to question.
Then the defense will bring its own witnesses to the stand.
White, of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, was in Murfreesboro visiting her grandmother when she was hit and died.
Sgt. Killings was driving a county-owned car at the time of the crash.
A jury of 10 women and four men was selected from Chattanooga on Monday. They will be sequestered for the duration of the trial.
Killings will be tried separately on charges of evidence tampering and filing a false report.