Osceola, Clarke County, Iowa. Three Vehicular Homicide charges were dismissed against GRL’s client less than a month before trial was set to commence. GRL’s client was accused of Vehicular Homicide by Reckless Driving after a vehicle he was driving was struck by a train. The three occupants of the vehicle were tragically killed in the accident, including GRL’s client’s sister. Despite there being no evidence of impairment or excessive speed, Clarke County filed the charges against the defendant, who was 16-years-old at the time of the accident.
GRL’s investigation quickly uncovered the fact that the Stop Ahead sign that Clarke County was responsible for maintaining was completely obscured by an overgrown tree. Additionally, the Yield sign that the railroad was required to have installed on the track crossing was not present at the time of the accident. These things combined with GRL being able to establish that the vehicle speed was well-below the speed limit and that the vehicle did indeed attempt to stop and avoid the collision, all resulted in the prosecution finally dismissing the charges.
This case highlights the importance of a objective and thorough investigation by law enforcement to avoid innocent people being charged with very serious offenses. Had law enforcement done a thorough, objective investigation and review of the case, this charge should never have been filed. Instead, the investigating officer failed to photograph and adequately document the sign deficiencies and took the Airbag Control Module data at face value without appropriately cross-referencing it to basic scientific standards and known facts. Sloppy police work can have tragic consequences. Thankfully, the end of this story has yet to be written.