Grand jury rejects charges in fatal crash

Becky Campbell • Nov 8, 2012 at 10:00 PM

Vehicular homicide and related charges against a Bluff City man were rejected by a Washington County grand jury this week.

The panel returned a “no true bill” in the case against Seth Green, 20, 1161 Old Elizabethton Highway, Bluff City. The charges, vehicular homicide by recklessness and aggravated assault, stemmed from a May 23 wreck that killed Burrell Mitchell, of Johnson City, who was riding a motorcycle that night.

District Attorney General Tony Clark said Green will still have to appear in Criminal Court later this month to officially learn what the grand jury decided.

The wreck occurred at one of the city’s intersections equipped with red light enforcement cameras. Initially, police did not think there was a video available because the night of the crash the camera was not working.

Ultimately, the company that operates the camera, Redflex, was able to retrieve a video that recorded the wreck.

“In looking at the video, two motorcycles were coming from that direction. One slowed down and one did not. The motorcycle caught toward the bed of the truck,” Clark said.

“Initially, the information was that car made left-hand turn in front of a motorcycle and someone was killed. They went ahead and placed charges based on a reckless act,” he said.

According to the investigation, Green was making a left turn from State of Franklin Road onto West Walnut Street. He had a green light but turned in front of two motorcycles coming from the other direction.

The speed limit on that part of State of Franklin is 40 mph, according to Clark, and the investigation showed Mitchell ws traveling 60 mph.

“The assessment was that the person on the motorcycle was going over the speed limit and never slowed down when approaching that intersection. Does he have to do that? No … there was no indication at all he made an attempt to brake, stop or swerve,” Clark said.

Sometime after police charged Green, they were able to obtain the video and “after we got the blood alcohol on everyone involved ... there was a change of opinion on culpability.”

According to information released earlier in the investigation, Mitchell had been drinking, which officials said would have slowed his reaction time. No drugs or alcohol were found in Green’s system, officials said.

Green waived his preliminary hearing in October and sent the case to a grand jury without hearing any evidence at that time.

“I’m not saying I agree or disagree with the decision they make. That’s how our system works. We take every single death seriously ... but not every single (crash) death is vehicular homicide. Our hearts go out to the family. They’ve lost someone,” Clark said.

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