Florida trooper Detrick McClellan (left) was on-duty when he sped at more than 100 mph without emergency lights down a county road and slammed into a Mitsubishi Galant driven by Michelle Campbell, 51. Campbell died in the crash and her granddaughter, 12, flew through the windshield. Her adult niece was also injured. McClellan was found at fault and given three traffic citations even though he said he was responding to a call about someone throwing rocks off an overpass. He was facing citations for careless driving, speeding, and failure to use his emergency lights. Yet, when McClellan came up for his hearing, the ticketing officer was no where to be found and the judge therefore dismissed the case. A video shows officers and McClellan laughing after the dismissal.
The FHP has said that it cleared the missing trooper who asserted a legitimate reason for missing the hearing. It would not say what that reason was or why there was no effort to guarantee that the hearing was postponed or an alternative officer be present. Prosecutors also refused to bring criminal charges against McClellan.
I can understand the decision not to bring criminal charges but the convenient lack of a witness remains a concern at the hearing. If this officer had a conflict, why did he or she not raise the matter with supervisors and take steps to postpone the hearing? I am also not sure why the court did not see a problem with a police officer being allowed to benefit for the lack of the appearance of a fellow officer in such a case. A postponement would seem an obvious response for the court.
The question now will be whether the family will file a lawsuit against the state and whether the failure to even supply an officer at the traffic hearing could find its way before a jury in a wrongful death case. It would likely be included in a motion in limine to keep it out of the trial and most judges would grant it despite the fact that it would tend to show the lack of concern of the FHP in pursuing such cases against its own officers. Nevertheless, the state should pay dearly for such this accident. It certainly cannot argue that that this was done outside of the scope of employment since it declined criminal charges on the basis that “he took a life while trying to save a life” in responding to the call.
Source: Sun Sentinel