More from David Koon. For earlier reporting on the manslaughter trial of former Little Rock police officer Josh Hastings go here.
Day three of the Hastings trial started off with the judge and counsel making an inquiry into several jurors. Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen sent out the jury, then brought back in three jurors — two women and a man — individually for bench conferences with counsel present. After last juror left, Griffen and consel had a long conference at the bench, then jury was brought back in and case proceeded. Oddly, up until the full jury was brought back in, there was extra security in the courtroom gallery — two deputies and an extra baliff. After bench conference was over, extra security in gallery was sent out.
Engineer and accident reconstructionst John Bentley came back to the stand for questioning by Prosecutor John Johnson, who walked Bentley through a series of photos taken of the rock slope at Silver Lake Apartments. Bentley's photos showed that the rocks immediately adjacent to the four-inch curb that Josh Hastings said the Honda drove up on and over after he fired were between 8 and 13 inches higher than the pavement. Bentley said, "The front of the Honda will reach the rocks before the front tire reaches the curb." Around 2 1/2 feet from the curb, photos showed the large, cantaloupe-sized granite rocks are around 20 inches higher than the pavement. All were apparently still "nested" in the soil and undisturbed.
Bentley's photos of the Honda driven by victim Bobby Moore showed that the lowest point of the plastic front air dam of the Honda, when loaded with 300 pounds to simulate driver and passengers, is between 4-1/2 and 4-3/4 inches off pavement. Bentley testified that the only damage to the plastic bumper and plastic radiator undershroud (the plastic piece that runs the width of the car just behind the bumper, directing air to the bottom of the radiator) were "uniform abrasions" consistent with driving up on concrete parking stops and not consistent with an impact to heavy rocks. Bentley testified there was no damge to the floorboards, exhaust, lower panels or front mudflaps that would be consistent with driving up onto heavy granite rocks. "You would expect fairly obvious penetrations to the panels from the sharp corners of the rocks." Bentley said. He also said he found no "rubber transfer" on the curb or the rocks.
After looking at the photos, Johnson displayed Bentley's report and a report prepared by a defense crash expert, noting several passages that seemed nearly identical in wording to Bentley's report and stopping just short of saying those passages were plagiarized. Bentley said the passages were close enough that when he read the defense report, he'd gone back to see if the other author had cited his report, but found that he hadn't. Both reports came to the conclusion that when the car rolled into the awning pole and a Chevy Camaro, the Honda was traveling 10.6 miles per hour. That number was based on his own calculations, Bentley said, with Bentley and questioning implying that it would be extremely odd for two investigators to estimate speed to within a tenth of a mph.
After break, Johnson plans to show video of defense testing in which an identical Honda was driven up the slope.
After break with John Bentley still on the stand, John Johnson showed two videos of the defense testing with a Honda similar to the one Bobby Moore was driving. In the first, shot April 22, 2013, defense testers slowly drove the test car over the curb. A foot over the curb, the test car in that video struck a rock and dislodged it from its "nested" position, moving it several inches. Bentley testified that the car in that test left tire tracks and contact evidence on the rock, including paint. The bumber of test car (which didn't have the air dam like the Honda driven by the victim, making the test car several inches further from pavement than the Honda) showed evidence of "very coarse and uneven contact." Photos of test car bumper showed large scrapes extending through the paint and into the plastic.
The other video, was shot at night, with camera placed in the position Hastings said he was that night and test car traveling 13 mph. It shows the car approaching with high beams on, passing the camera, followed by the sound of heavy scraping and contact with the curb and rocks. Bentley noted that the car didn't roll back but instead got stuck, pointing out the reverse lights reflected in another car as the driver backed the car down off the slope, with more heavy scraping sounds.
Prosecutor showed several daylight photos of the rocks on the slope after the 13 mph test, with Bentley pointing out scrapes and black "rubber transfer" marks on the rocks.
Bentley said the test car also showed evidence of scraping to the metal cross members under the car, where Moore's Honda's cross member showed no such scraping. On cross examination, defense attorney Bill James pointed out photo of what appeared to be a scuff mark to the inside of the passenger's front tire and white marks on the bottom of the exhaust pipe on the Honda. Bentley called the marks on the exhaust a "slight discoloration." On recross, Johnson showed a different angle of the exhaust, with Bentley saying the markings on the pipe were "nothing fresh." Bentley was allowed to step down at 12:15 but retained as a potential witness by the prosecution. Court then broke for lunch.
Judge Griffen has told the jury that if the case isn't finished today trial will continue Saturday.