Archive for Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Trial to begin in hit-and-run deaths on U.S. 59

September 2, 2008

A woman accused in the hit-and-run deaths of two highway workers south of Lawrence will soon begin standing trial, nearly a year after the incident.

Jury selection starts today in the trial of Ramona Morgan, 49, of Washington state.

Morgan is facing two counts of reckless second-degree murder for the deaths of Tyrone Korte, 30, of Seneca, and Rolland Griffith, 24, of El Dorado. Morgan also is charged with aggravated battery, accused of injuring a third worker Sept. 11, 2007, in a construction zone on U.S. Highway 59 near Pleasant Grove.

Prosecutors have said that Morgan ignored signs and warnings to stop and twice drove through the blocked-off construction area. It was on her second pass, they say, that Morgan struck and killed Korte, a Kansas Department of Transportation employee, and Griffith, who worked for Dustrol Inc., the Towanda firm hired to do the highway repaving.

"All of the witnesses testified she sped through that construction zone twice," Asst. District Attorney Eve Kemple said at a previous court hearing. "She failed to heed any warnings. She did not brake, did not swerve, she took no evasive action."

But Morgan's attorney argues that no crime was committed.

"We want to give the jury all the facts so they can decide for themselves whether this tragedy was a crime," Billy Rork said.

Rork said he will argue that his client drove through the construction zone because she was being chased.

"She was thoroughly convinced that her life was in danger," he said. "She maintains she did not know she struck anybody."

Morgan, who fled the accident scene, was convicted by an Osage County jury in April of a felony charge of trying to flee from police, as well as several misdemeanor traffic violations.

She's been in custody since her arrest last year, despite several attempts by her attorney to have her bond reduced. She remains in Douglas County Jail on $200,000 bond.

The trial is expected to last at least a week.

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