Chattanooga school bus driver found guilty of 6 students' deaths in crash

A bus driver on trial for his role in the death of six elementary school students was found guilty Thursday on numer...

Posted: Mar 2, 2018 9:57 AM
Updated: Mar 2, 2018 9:57 AM

A bus driver on trial for his role in the death of six elementary school students was found guilty Thursday on numerous charges relating to a crash in November 2016.

Johnthony Walker was transporting 37 students from Woodmore Elementary School in Chattanooga, Tennessee, when the bus he was driving flipped over and crashed into a tree, killing six children between the ages of 6 and 10.

The breakdown of the jury's verdict was:

- Guilty on 6 counts of criminal negligent homicide

- Guilty on 11 charges of reckless aggravated assault

- Guilty on 7 charges of assault

- Guilty of reckless endangerment

- Guilty of reckless driving

- Guilty of the use of a portable electronic device by a school driver

- Not guilty on 6 counts of assault

Walker originally faced 34 charges, according to online court records, including six counts of vehicular homicide, but was found guilty on six lesser charges of criminal negligent homicide.

He also faced a slew of assault charges, in addition to one charge of reckless endangerment, one charge of reckless driving and one charge of the use of a portable electronic device by a school bus driver.

Walker pleaded not guilty to the negligent homicide charges in March 2017, CNN affiliate WTVC reported.

During the trial, prosecutors argued Walker was driving well over the 30 mph speed limit and was on his phone when the school bus ran off the road.

"It all could have been avoided if Johnthony Walker had slowed down and gone the speed limit and stayed off his phone," prosecutor Crystle Carrion said, according to WTVC.

Walker took the stand Wednesday to defend himself, saying a white vehicle had encroached into his lane and he had swerved to avoid it.

"I chose to veer out of the way," Walker said. "I figured I had gotten out of the way of the other vehicle and our route would continue." He added that he was not on his phone at the time of the crash and did not remember how fast he was going.

CNN has reached out to Walker's attorney for comment.

Defense highlighted mystery white bus

Walker's attorney Amanda Dunn said on WTVC that Chattanooga police didn't investigate the case properly. She says they didn't interview witnesses at the scene and jumped to conclusions rather than letting facts develop.

Dunn said as Walker was driving the bus, a white "transport type of vehicle" was driving in the opposite direction and came around a curve in the road going into the same lane as Walker's bus.

"There was never an investigation about the white bus, there was never any attempt to take evidence from the roadway or speak to any eyewitnesses about this white bus," Dunn said. "There was never an investigation on any of the facts that would have led to a conclusion other than the one the Chattanooga Police Department had already made about Johnthony."

During her cross-examination of Chattanooga Police Investigator Joe Warren, Dunn asked about his investigation methods.

"If I was going on only tire marks, that'd be one thing, but there are other indications that speed was a factor," Warren said.

He said in December 2016 he estimated the speed of the bus at between 50 and 52 mph, about 20 mph above the posted speed limit.

Other witnesses at the scene, such as state witnesses Ann Jones Pierre and Michelle Brogdon, said Walker was going fast.

"He left the stop sign a little fast," Pierre said. She lives in the neighborhood where the crash took place and was driving behind Walker's bus before the crash, WTVC reports.

"You could tell he was going over the speed limit," Brogdon said. She lived near the crash site, according to WTVC, and rushed to the scene when she heard the crash.

In addition, investigators discovered that Walker wasn't driving on his designated route when the crash took place. However, in court on Wednesday, Walker said that older drivers gave him a route sheet, but that the route had since changed as certain students had been added or taken off the route.

Prosecutors said Walker was on the phone with Takiesha Nixon for four minutes before the bus crash. The two work together at Amazon, Walker's second job.

Nixon said as soon as she learned Walker was driving a bus during their phone conversation, she hung up. Dunn said during Nixon's cross-examination that she didn't know Walker was involved in the crash until much later.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 245847

Reported Deaths: 5356
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto16717168
Hinds15748310
Harrison12806188
Rankin10334204
Jackson9996172
Lee8666135
Madison7994158
Jones6112108
Forrest5826117
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Holmes167467
Jasper163533
Clay155632
Stone138818
Tallahatchie137033
Clarke135160
Calhoun132021
Smith117322
Yalobusha112534
Walthall110536
Noxubee108922
Greene108229
Montgomery107134
Carroll102320
Lawrence99817
Perry98631
Amite95725
Webster90024
Claiborne84125
Tunica84021
Jefferson Davis82925
Humphreys80324
Benton79722
Kemper75620
Quitman6678
Franklin64613
Choctaw59412
Wilkinson57424
Jefferson52019
Sharkey42317
Issaquena1576
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 414583

Reported Deaths: 5945
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson60842887
Mobile29590538
Madison26466183
Tuscaloosa20537267
Montgomery18562304
Shelby18181112
Baldwin15841177
Lee1212097
Morgan12002112
Etowah11488142
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Marshall10048106
Houston8405123
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Limestone785073
Elmore7670101
DeKalb757282
St. Clair7417120
Lauderdale740282
Talladega6036108
Walker5834176
Jackson571937
Colbert522270
Blount521980
Autauga507555
Coffee431456
Dale388278
Franklin362145
Chilton332965
Covington325567
Russell318910
Escambia309842
Dallas297988
Chambers275769
Clarke272933
Tallapoosa2591107
Pike245829
Lawrence239345
Marion238649
Winston222535
Bibb211347
Geneva196331
Marengo196329
Pickens195331
Hale172542
Barbour169636
Butler166958
Fayette164026
Cherokee158330
Henry149219
Monroe143617
Randolph137635
Washington135426
Clay124446
Crenshaw117444
Lamar116819
Cleburne115123
Macon111935
Lowndes107935
Wilcox99921
Bullock97128
Perry95019
Conecuh92820
Sumter89126
Greene75123
Coosa59814
Choctaw50824
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