Morgan’s hit-and-run case goes to jury
Jurors in a hit-and-run trial involving the deaths of two highway workers in Douglas County will have to decide whether the defendant showed an extreme indifference to the value of human life by her actions that day on Sept. 11, 2001.
"She accelerated 51 mph into a group of men on foot. She showed extreme and absolute indifference to the value of human life," said David Melton, a chief assistant Douglas County District attorney, during closing arguments Monday in the murder trial of Ramona I. Morgan, 49 of Washington state.
But Morgan's defense attorney, Billy Rork, told jurors that prosecutors failed to meet the burden of proof and that his client was scared for her life. She thought she was being chased as she drove through the construction zone.
"Ramona Morgan's state of mind is the key - not yours, not mine," Rork said.
Prosecutors are trying to convict Morgan of two counts of reckless second-degree murder for striking and killing construction workers Tyrone Korte, 30, of Seneca, and Rolland Griffith, 24, of El Dorado, on U.S. Highway 59 near Pleasant Grove. She also faces an aggravated battery charge for injuring a third worker.
Jurors also have the option of convicting her of lesser charges, involuntary manslaughter, or vehicular homicide, which is a misdemeanor.
Melton attacked Morgan's defense claim that she believed people were chasing her for two days across Missouri and Kansas and shooting at her truck to try to rob her.
"We know that didn't happen. Either these were the most incompetent robbers in the history of crime, or they didn't exist," Melton said. "If they existed, they would have committed this terrible crime down there, they wouldn't have chased the defendant up all the way to Douglas County."
He said Morgan was angry at the condition of property she intended to buy in central Missouri. Melton also stressed testimony from workers and construction zone drivers who said Morgan and her daughter were laughing the first time they drove north through the construction zone and caused a line of southbound pilot cars to pull off the road.
Prosecutors allege Morgan drove southbound through the zone a second time when she struck the two workers.
But Rork said eyewitness testimony at the trial was inconsistent from interviews with law enforcement shortly after the accident. He also stressed the damage to the windshield of the truck that could have impeded her view; Rork has said Morgan thought she struck orange barrels.
Involuntary manslaughter carries a maximum penalty of about 11 years in prison, and vehicular homicide's penalty is a jail term not to exceed one year.