Casey teen convicted in traffic deaths

February 19, 2004|Jim Logan

LIBERTY - The jury deciding the fate of a young driver who struck and killed two Casey County women returned a guilty verdict Wednesday night after a marathon day of deliberations.

The six men and six women returned to Casey Circuit Court this morning to deliberate the sentence for Philip Moore, 18, of Yosemite.

Moore was accused of two counts of reckless homicide in the deaths of Violet Sims, 67, and Nellie Jean Hamilton, 73.

Moore has admitted that he hit Sims and Hamilton in the early morning of Sept. 9, 2002. The women were walking along Calvary Ridge Road when Moore, who was on his way to Casey County High School, hit them while driving at least 45 mph. They were killed instantly.


Moore was indicted by a Casey County grand jury after the Kentucky State Police lab found marijuana and an antidepressant in a urine sample taken shortly after the crash.

In their closing arguments Wednesday, attorneys for both sides predictably played to their strengths, although the defense used an unusual source: KSP Detective Bill Gregory.

As the lead investigator in the case, Gregory was one of the prosecution's first witnesses, describing the crash scene and his initial interview with Moore.

On cross-examination by defense attorney Todd Spalding, however, Gregory conceded that he observed no signs of impairment in the teen. Moreover, the detective testified he had arrested more than 170 people for driving under the influence.

A steady stream of others, including a trooper who administered Moore's drug test at the hospital, also testified they could see no signs of intoxication or impairment in him shortly after the crash.

The deaths of Sims and Hamilton, Spalding told the jury, were an accident, not a criminal offense.

"Simply because a tragedy occurred on a roadway," he said, "doesn't make it a crime."

But while Spalding focused on the lack of visible evidence of Moore's alleged impairment, Commonwealth's Attorney Brian Wright relied on science.

Drug tests performed by KSP's lab in Frankfort found marijuana and nortriptyline, an antidepressant, in Moore's urine. Moore did not have a prescription for the antidepressant.

Wright stressed the testimony of Don Nelson, a clinical pharmacologist at the University of Cincinnati, who said the levels found in Moore's urine were proof that he had smoked marijuana within 24 hours of the crash. Nelson also said Moore still would have been impaired at the time of the crash.

Even absent the drugs, Wright asserted, Moore's conduct was clearly reckless.

He pointed out that the teen knew Sims and Hamilton likely would be walking on the road that morning and was still driving 45 to 50 mph. Moore, he noted, had crossed at least nine feet to the other side of the road when he hit the women.

Add to those circumstance the presence of drugs, he said, and Moore should be found guilty of reckless homicide.

"What more would he have do to be reckless?" Wright said.|

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