The car crash death of 70-year-old Leon Thurman has been followed on this blog by our Alpharetta automobile accident attorneys (see original post here ). Mr. Thurman was a well known and respected member of his Georgia community who died while delivering newspapers. He delivered every day, except Christmas Day, for 15 years. Thurman was trying to cross all four lanes on Cleveland Highway to access a side road when he was killed. Then-Police Officer James Smith was speeding and slammed into Mr. Thurman’s Dodge Neon, which shot forward and burst into flames from the impact. Mr. Thurman was thrown from the vehicle and died at the scene on March 5.
In the beginning of August, Mr. Thurman’s family settled with the City of Varnell, who employed Officer Smith, for an undisclosed amount (see post here ). The family’s lawsuit claimed that Officer Smith was driving in excess of 90 miles per hour at the time of the crash in a 45 mile per hour speed limit zone. He was not on duty, responding to a call, and did not have his flashing blue lights on. Thurman’s widow and daughter asked for $750,000.
District Attorney Bert Poston will bring evidence of Officer Smith’s responsibility for Mr. Thurman’s death to the grand jury, according to news reports . He expects to have no problem obtaining a criminal indictment for Smith. The grand jury hearing is expected to happen in the next week or so. This decision to pursue criminal charges came after months of investigation and reconstruction of the accident by the Georgia State Patrol. The evidence was turned over to Mr. Poston’s office for review in July.
Mr. Thurman’s son, Michael, said he is relieved that the person responsible for his father’s death will face his actions in court. He said, “I am relieved it’s going to go to that point, and it won’t get pushed aside.” Smith resigned from the police department after the accident, and did not comment on the possible indictment. Mr. Poston also has not named the charges he will seek in the indictment, but noted again that it was Officer Smith’s speeding that was the primary cause of the collision.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a car accident resulting in injuries or other damages, the experienced Alpharetta car accident lawyers at Sammons & Carpenter, PC can help you pursue your legal options for recovery. Mr. Thurman’s case highlights the fact that civil and criminal cases are completely separate matters, and that there can be recovery for an accident or wrongful death without or before the criminal system gets involved. In civil cases, there are often multiple potential parties – the Thurman’s lawsuit was against the city employing Officer Smith, for example. These legal issues are often complex and having an experienced wrongful death attorney is important. Call us today at 404-814-8949, or fill out our confidential online case evaluation form .