An on-duty Florida Highway Patrol trooper who killed a grandmother in a 90 mph collision has had his case dismissed after the officer who gave him the citations missed his trial.
A newly-released video of Detrick McClellan’s court hearing shows how troopers in the court room laughed as a distracted judge dismissed the case, before they shook the officer’s hand.
The video has contributed to the firing of a commander and an investigation is now underway to determine if seven troopers at the hearing acted inappropriately.
‘If the FHP allows it to stand, what they’re saying is the law does not apply to us, even if we kill people,’ Dennis Kenney, from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, told the Sun Sentinel.
On February 10, 2012, McClellan, 34, was responding to a call about someone throwing rocks from an overpass as he drove through Gadsden County.
As he drove to the scene without his emergency lights on, he reached speeds of more than 100mph and lost control as he travelled around a bend, where the recommended speed was just 35 mph.
He smashed into Michelle Campbell’s vehicle, throwing her 12-year-old granddaughter through the windshield and injuring her niece. Ms Campbell, 51, died hours later.
FHP Cpl. C. Brooks Yarborough investigated the crash and found McClellan at fault. He was fired and cited with three traffic violations, careless driving, speeding, and failure to use his emergency lights.
But prosecutors refused to file criminal charges, finding that McClellan’s driving was not equivalent to vehicular homicide.
‘He responded to [the call] rapidly because that’s a dangerous thing, rocks hitting cars,’ Willie Meggs, state attorney, told the Sentinel. ‘We made the conclusion that there was a life lost, but he was trying to save a life.’
[…]When the lawyer asked Cross if he would agree to dismiss the citations, he said: ‘Why not? I’m easy to please,’ as laughter echoed throughout the courtroom.
The judge, who admitted she had been distracted by paperwork, said: ‘So y’all want it dismissed? There’s no objection? C’mon, y’all Candid Cameraing me?’
The lawyer, Stephen Webster, added: ‘If the agency felt this strongly about these citations, they certainly would have someone here.’
Within two minutes of the start of the hearing, the judge said: ‘Hearing no objection, or no one’s here, I will go on and dismiss the citations.’
Despite being responsible for the death of a woman, McClellan walked out with no consequences, and even shook hands with fellow troopers as he left the room.
The victim’s family said they are shocked by the outcome of the trial, and had not even been told it was going ahead.
‘It was appalling and it hurt because I feel like they were cheering, rooting him on, for a death he caused,’ her daughter, Annekquah Knight, said. ‘They knew he was wrong. I think it’s just because he was a trooper, and they look out for each other.’
Watch the video