Archive for Monday, September 8, 2008

Jury heads home in hit-and-run case

September 8, 2008, 2:18 p.m. Updated September 8, 2008, 5:27 p.m.


The judge in the hit-and-run trial of Ramona Morgan has declared a recess until 8:30 Tuesday morning.

Jurors deliberated until almost 5:30 Monday night and are expected to continue deliberating on Tuesday.

Our previous update:

Jurors returned at 3:15 to have two issues clarified.

They had testimony read back from a worker who witnessed Curtis Delzell get hit. Delzell survived.

Jurors also had the court replay Ramona Morgan's call to 911 in Buffalo, Missouri - in which she claims she has people chasing her.

Our earlier story:

Jurors in a hit-and-run trial involving the deaths of two highway workers in Douglas County will have to decide whether the defendant showed an extreme indifference to the value of human life by her actions that day on Sept. 11, 2007.

"She accelerated 51 mph into a group of men on foot. She showed extreme and absolute indifference to the value of human life," said David Melton, a chief assistant Douglas County District attorney, during closing arguments Monday in the murder trial of Ramona I. Morgan, 49 of Washington state.

But Morgan's defense attorney, Billy Rork, told jurors that prosecutors failed to meet the burden of proof and that his client was scared for her life. She thought she was being chased as she drove through the construction zone.

"Ramona Morgan's state of mind is the key - not yours, not mine," Rork said.

Prosecutors are trying to convict Morgan of two counts of reckless second-degree murder for striking and killing construction workers Tyrone Korte, 30, of Seneca, and Rolland Griffith, 24, of El Dorado, on U.S. Highway 59 near Pleasant Grove. She also faces an aggravated battery charge for injuring a third worker.

Jurors also have the option of convicting her of lesser charges, involuntary manslaughter, or vehicular homicide, which is a misdemeanor.

Melton attacked Morgan's defense claim that she believed people were chasing her for two days across Missouri and Kansas and shooting at her truck to try to rob her.

"We know that didn't happen. Either these were the most incompetent robbers in the history of crime, or they didn't exist," Melton said. "If they existed, they would have committed this terrible crime down there, they wouldn't have chased the defendant up all the way to Douglas County."

He said Morgan was angry at the condition of property she intended to buy in central Missouri. Melton also stressed testimony from workers and construction zone drivers who said Morgan and her daughter were laughing the first time they drove north through the construction zone and caused a line of southbound pilot cars to pull off the road.

Prosecutors allege Morgan drove southbound through the zone a second time when she struck the two workers.

But Rork said eyewitness testimony at the trial was inconsistent from interviews with law enforcement shortly after the accident. He also stressed the damage to the windshield of the truck that could have impeded her view; Rork has said Morgan thought she struck orange barrels.

Involuntary manslaughter carries a maximum penalty of about 11 years in prison, and vehicular homicide's penalty is a jail term not to exceed one year.


Shelley Bock 9 years, 7 months ago

I agree with geniusmannumber1. Isense has no idea about what is going on. Rork isn't stupid, by any means. Just because the facts don't seem to fall your way does't means that counsel is incompetent.What would be your defense strategy, Isense?

termtech215 9 years, 7 months ago

Was this Ramona Morgan tested for competency to stand trial? She is obviously extremely paranoid if she was "running" from some alleged robber for several days. If her windshield was cracked enough that she could not see, does that excuse the fact that she hit and killed two men? She seems to have serious mental illness and really needs help while she is in the slammer.

dweezil222 9 years, 7 months ago

I'm actually sort of surprised they didn't try some kind of "insanity" defense. The woman's unbalanced at best.

geniusmannumber1 9 years, 7 months ago

Please elaborate, lsense. From reading this article, it looks like Rork's doing a fine job. From reading your comment, it appears that you've never heard of Rork. Please explain to me the mistakes he made, and explain how you would do it better.

4thgencowgirl 9 years, 7 months ago

I am so sorry this incident happened in Douglas County Kansas. My sympathy to the families of the deceased.

geniusmannumber1 9 years, 7 months ago

Well, lsense, there's a lot I could say, but we'll just chalk up your comments to your being unaware of the meaning of "burden of proof," and apparently unaware that the burden of proof varies from crime to crime."""Ramona Morgan's state of mind is the key - not yours, not mine," Rork said."This means absolutely nothing to the jurors, and hopefully they were smart enough not to be swayed by such a meaningless comment."This is an absolutely incorrect statement on your part. Mr. Rork's statement is absolutely correct. Reckless second degree murder -- the crime of which Ms. Morgan is accused -- is defined as.1. The killing2. of a human being3. committed unintentionally but recklessly under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to human life.Each of these three elements must be proven to convict Ms. Morgan of the crime of which she is accused. If any one is not proven beyond a reasonable doubt, she is not guilty of the crime. The third element listed above refers to Ms. Morgan's "state of mind." Given that Ms. Morgan's actions clearly killed a human being, Mr. Rork's only course of action is to cast doubt on Ms. Morgan's state of mind. He has done so by emphasizing particular circumstances -- that she believed her own life was in danger, and that she did not believe that her actions were that dangerous to others (and probably a dozen more things which have not been reported in the paper).Whether or not the jury will be convinced (it seems to me) is pointless without sitting in the courtroom and listening to the testimony -- it's just sheer speculation. But I would stand by my statement that, according to the facts presented in this article, Mr. Rork is doing a fine job, and I certainly have no suggestions to improve his performance.One more small note -- you seem to be confused as to the meaning of the word "evidence." It is my understanding that Ms. Morgan's daughter testified that Ms. Morgan was afraid for her life. That is evidence.

mk9992 9 years, 7 months ago

Isense, did you actually read the article? They have to prove that she showed indifference to the value of human life. The DNA evidence and the cell phones have nothing to do with this. He also didn't claim that she hit orange barrels only that she believed that she did. So there's no need to try to prove that she hit the barrels. As far as proving that she was in fear of her life; there is documentation that she called 911 the day before claiming that there were people chasing and shooting at her. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that i think she's innocent, I just think you should get your facts straight.Personally I think there's something fishy going on if she had such a huge amount of cash on her and people were chasing her for at least two states.

spammer89 9 years, 7 months ago

you would think this would be breaking news.

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