Archive for Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Jury to continue deliberations in U.S. Highway 59 fatalities

September 9, 2008

Jurors will return to Douglas County District Court Tuesday morning to deliberate the fate of a Washington state woman accused of killing two highway workers in 2007 in a hit-and-run.

During closing arguments Monday, a prosecutor accused Ramona I. Morgan, 49, of "showing extreme indifference to the value of human life" by her actions on Sept. 11, 2007 - a key legal phrase for the highest charge she faces.

"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.

But Morgan's defense attorney, Billy Rork, told jurors that prosecutors failed to meet the burden of proof and that his client, scared for her life, thought she was being chased when 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, an inspector for the Kansas Department of Transportation from Seneca, and Rolland Griffith, 24, a construction worker for Dustrol Inc. from El Dorado, on U.S. Highway 59 near Pleasant Grove. She also faces an aggravated battery charge for injuring a third worker, Curtis Delzell, a Dustrol Inc. construction worker.

Jurors have the option of convicting Morgan 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.

He also stressed testimony from workers and construction zone drivers who said Morgan and her daughter, Sabrina Morgan, 27, were laughing the first time they drove north through the construction zone and caused a line of southbound cars following a pilot vehicle to pull off the road.

But Rork said eyewitness testimony at the trial was inconsistent from interviews with law enforcement shortly after the hit-and-run. He also emphasized that the damage to the truck's windshield could have impeded her view; Rork has said Morgan thought she struck only orange barrels.

Throughout Monday afternoon, the 12-person jury had a court reporter read back testimony several times. When the trial resumes at 9 a.m. Tuesday in District Judge Paula Martin's courtroom, jurors will listen to a reading of part of the testimony of Morgan, who testified in her defense Friday.

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