School bus stopped for 20 seconds before red lights turned on, defense expert says
FORSYTH COUNTY, N.C. — Hasani Wesley’s school bus was stopped 20 seconds before the flashing red lights came on and the stop arm came down, a defense expert testified in Forsyth Superior Court this morning.
Hasani, 11 and a sixth-grader at East Forsyth Middle School, was killed Dec. 19, 2012 while crossing the road to catch his school bus.
Billy Roger Bailey, who was driving south on Old Hollow Road in a 1999 Jeep Cherokee, hit Hasani.
Bailey is on trial for involuntary manslaughter and passing a stopped school bus in connection to Hasani’s death. At issue during the trial is whether the bus was stopped, with its stop arm down and red lights flashing, when Bailey passed it and hit Hasani.
Bailey testified last week that the school bus’s yellow warning lights were flashing but it had not stopped when he passed it.
Steve Farlow, a staff engineer with Accident Reconstruction Analysis Inc. in Raleigh, said in court today that he reviewed GPS data retrieved from the school system as well as witness statements connected to that data and a report done by Trooper Brian K. Palmiter of the N.C. Highway Patrol.
Farlow said based on his review and calculations that he conducted, he concluded that the bus began braking about 135 feet from where it stopped.
He said his interpretation of the GPS data indicates that the bus was completely stopped for 20 seconds before the red lights began flashing and the stop arm came down.
Prosecutors put on several witnesses, including school bus driver Stephanie Fulton, who testified that the bus’s red lights were flashing and the stop arm was down before Hasani began crossing the road.
Assistant District Attorney Matt Breeding objected to Farlow testifying as an accident reconstruction expert and also objected to Farlow being allowed to testify about his opinions in his case.
During a hearing outside the presence of a hearing, Breeding asked Farlow pointed questions about what he based his conclusions on, noting that Farlow didn’t examine the bus, Bailey’s jeep or the GPS unit.
Farlow said that he didn’t know the tracking software that the school system used for its GPS unit or exactly how the school system collected and categorized the GPS data.
Judge Ron Spivey of Forsyth Superior Court overruled the prosecution’s objection and allowed Farlow to testify as an expert and on his report.
Farlow said in court that it was difficult to interpret the GPS data until Edna Anderson, a school transportation employee, testified last week and explained a 70-second discrepancy that Bailey’s attorneys noted during cross-examination.
Farlow said that after Anderson explained the data and the discrepancy, he was able to accurately interpret the GPS data and provide an opinion.
Marilyn Martin, who was driving from Walkertown to Kernersville on Dec. 19, 2012, testified that she saw flashing yellow lights when a vehicle matching Bailey’s car passed the school bus.
Under cross-examination from Assistant District Attorney Brian Taylor, Martin said that she didn’t contact any law-enforcement about what she saw and had only talked to George Cleland, one of Bailey’s attorneys, who had called her.
Taylor also had Martin acknowledge under cross-examination that Kenneth Davis, the mayor of Walkertown, was the one who bonded Bailey out of jail. Bailey is a pastor of Cross Roads Ministry of Walkertown.
Another defense witness, David Martin (no relation to Marilyn Martin) testified last week that he drove up on the scene behind Bailey and only saw flashing yellow lights. He testified that he never saw flashing red lights or the bus’s stop arm deployed.
Palmiter of the N.C. Highway Patrol concluded that the bus was stopped with its stop arm down and red lights flashing when Hasani was hit. He also testified that Bailey was driving 46 mph and didn’t brake before hitting Hasani.
Breeding, one of the prosecutors, said in court that he intends to call rebuttal witnesses. Closing arguments could come later today.