According to an article covering the event, in 2014, Jonathan Raynes looked away from a stretch of road in Alabama for an instant, looked up to see a stopped car in the street, and swerved left into oncoming traffic, causing a head-on collision that took the life of Miranda Hamilton. Mr. Raynes would later claim that he was not on his cellphone at the time of the accident but a digital forensic examiner of the FBI testified otherwise at his criminal trial. After days in court and hours of deliberation, a jury came back with a manslaughter verdict that the court upheld.
Digital Evidence Weighs Heavily In Manslaughter Case
A case about a fatal car accident is unfortunately not uncommon, but the circumstances of the evidence used in this case are. The forensic examiner, Mr. Weathersby, accessed data downloaded from Raynes’ phone to determine exactly what he was doing at the time of the collision. Weathersby claimed that the phone’s records indicated that Raynes had manipulated the phone, most likely to access a dating app, only 32 seconds before 911 call centers were first notified about the crash. This was submitted as and subsequently considered strong evidence for the prosecution, despite a complete lack of eyewitness testimonies.
Raynes’s defense counsel argued that investigations at the scene of the crash were inexcusably unprofessional. In particular, they cited that Ms. Hamilton’s own phone had been removed from the scene by her boyfriend and never handed over to investigators. The defense argued that she might have been actively texting and driving during the collision, which could also suggest that she struck Raynes’s stopped vehicle, not the other way around.
The fact that the judge and jury considered a phone’s digital information as a suitable replacement for actual statements from those on the scene is substantial for accident victims everywhere, especially in Alabama. It has essentially backed up the validity of texting and driving laws and opened the door for prosecutors in criminal cases and plaintiffs in civil lawsuits to call upon digital evidence from the offender’s cellphone. Even though a warrant may still be necessary to do so, it makes it clear that negligence of this manner is entirely unacceptable in the eyes of the law.
To learn more about your rights as an injured driver, or if you need to make a personal injury lawsuit to pursue compensation, contact our Dothan injury attorneys at Morris, Cary, Andrews, Talmadge & Driggers, LLC today. We have recovered millions of dollars in recent verdicts and settlements for our clients, and we would be honored to bring that caliber of representation to your case as well. Just dial 888.694.0174 for a free consultation.
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