AUBURN, Ala. (WRBL) – The Auburn teen charged with two counts of Manslaughter in the deadly crash that killed Rod and Paula Bramblett will be treated as a Youthful Offender as ordered by the presiding judge in the case. The Lee County District Attorney’s Office argued against Youthful Offender and wanted to try 18-year-old Johnston Taylor as an adult in the deadly crash.
Taylor was 16-years-old when he crashed into Rod and Paula Bramblett on March 25, 2019, along Shug Jordan Parkway, killing the Voice of the Auburn Tigers and his wife. The ALEA crash report indicates Taylor was traveling 91 miles per hour at the time of the crash. A blood sample indicated “recent” use of marijuana.
The teen’s defense team applied for Youthful Offender status, and a hearing was held on March 30, 2021. Judge P.B. McLauchlin, a retired judge out of Dale County, issued his ruling on Tuesday. McLaughlin was appointed when Lee County Judges rescued themselves.
McLaughlin wrote, “At the time of the accident, the defendant was a 16-year-old teenager with no prior criminal history, who had smoked or used marijuana and had been diagnosed with marijuana use disorder. None of this justifies what happened: However, it does lend itself to treatment as a Youthful Offender. THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that the Application to be treated as a Youthful Offender is hereby GRANTED.”
A Youthful Offender ruling is considered a legal win for a defense team as it reduces possible punishment and seals further public inspection of the case record. Under Alabama law, when a YO is approved, the defendant waives his right to a jury trial- but can have a bench trial. YO is considered an adjudication, not a conviction. If the judge does hand down a sentence, prison time is capped at three years, and probation is also capped at three years. The record is sealed to public inspection. Because the person is not considered a convict, they can own a firearm, vote, hold public office, and they do not have to disclose information related to the crime on a job application.
Neither the defense nor prosecutors can comment on the case update because of the YO status. Taylor is slated to be arraigned and plea on April 28. We are waiting to hear if reporters will be allowed in the courtroom.