AUBURN, Ala. (WRBL) – The case against an Auburn 16-year-old charged with two counts of Manslaughter in the May 25th crash that resulted in the deaths of Rod and Paula Bramblett is heading to a Lee County Grand Jury for them to consider indictment.
On July 16th, defense attorneys representing the defendant, Johnston Taylor, filed a motion withdrawing the request for a Preliminary Hearing. The hearing is considered a first test of the prosecution’s evidence in the case and allows a judge to decide if there is enough evidence to continue the case and send it to a grand jury.
The filing reads:
“Comes now the defendant, Johnston Edward Taylor, and files this his Motion to Withdraw the request for a Preliminary Hearing in these premises. Defendant further waives his right to a Preliminary Hearing and stipulates that this case may be bound over to the grand jury.”
Taylor was arrested earlier this month and charged with two counts of Manslaughter, a Class B Felony.
In the Affidavit Charging Crime an ALEA crash report indicates the teen was traveling 36 mph over the speed limit and accelerating from 89 mph to 91 mph when he rear-ended the Voice of the Auburn Tigers and his wife on May 25th along Shug Jordan Parkway.
The document also states a blood sample taken from the teen at the hospital indicated “recent” use of marijuana.
“On June 28, 2019 the Auburn Police division received a report from the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s Traffic Homicide Unit including data confirming that Taylor‘s vehicle was accelerating from 89 to 91 mph when the crash occurred; no braking was indicated. The posted speed limit for that section of Shug Jordan Parkway is 55 mph. On July 1, 2019, the Auburn Police Division received the Toxicological Analysis Report of Taylor‘s blood sample from the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences. The report indicated that Taylor‘s blood sample contained THC, which is the primary psychoactive component of marijuana and is indicative of recent usage of marijuana at the time of the collision on May 25, 2019.”
The family of the Auburn teen retained Birmingham defense attorney, Tommy Spina, to represent Taylor.
“There are no words I could say, on behalf of my client and his family that would adequately express the remorse and contrition this child and his family feel for the loss caused to the Bramblett family as a result of this tragic accident. We hope in time there can be healing for parties directly affected by this terrible tragedy,” Spina tells News 3.
Spina maintains his client fell asleep at the wheel and remembers nothing of the crash. He confirms Taylor had been at Lake Martin most of the day of the crash and was exhausted. Spina says his client was not drinking nor had he smoked marijuana at the lake. Spina says his client was not impaired at the time of the crash.
“Experts say marijuana can stay in someone’s system for as long as 30 days or more. He simply fell asleep at the wheel,” he said.
Spina also commented to News 3 on applying for youthful offender status.
“Procedurally anyone who is less than 21 at the time of an alleged offense has an absolute right, and a lawyer has a duty, under Alabama law to request that he or she be given youthful offender “status”. The determination of whether to grant or deny that status is solely within the discretion of the circuit court judge assigned the case after indictment based on a number of factors listed under the youthful offender statute,” said Spina.
The crash happened on a Saturday evening around 6:08. Early Sunday morning Lee Co. Coroner Bill Harris confirmed the couple had passed away early the next morning.
“The fatality accident victims in Saturday’s two vehicle collision in Auburn were 53-year-old Rod Bramblett and his wife, 52-year-old Paula Bramblett, of Auburn. Paula Bramblett died at 7:50 PM in the emergency room of East Alabama Medical Center from multiple internal injuries and Rod Bramblett, known as the “Voice of the Auburn Tigers”, died at UAB Hospital in Birmingham from a severe closed head injury,” said Harris
According to the The Alabama Uniform Traffic Crash Report released on June 6th, Taylor told police he fell asleep while driving and remembers nothing.
Based on the information provided in the report it appears the deadly injuries sustained by Rod and Paula Bramblett were caused by the force of the rear impact only.
Police determined the teen did not appear to be texting and driving or distracted by an electronic device prior to the crash.Police also determined alcohol was not a factor.
Taylor is out of jail on a $50,000 bond awaiting further court proceedings.