Trial begins in Jackson aggravated vehicular homicide case

By Randa Wagner

February 23, 2014

Two years and three months after the crash that claimed the life of Paul Nauman, the aggravated vehicular homicide case against Cory Jackson of Bellville began Monday, Feb. 17 with jury selection that was completed that day.

Opening statements began Tuesday after the jury visited the site of the accident on State Route 314. The courtroom was standing room only with family and friends of both the Naumans and the Jacksons in attendance, and media personnel.

Prosecutor’s opening statements

Asst. Prosecutor David Homer delivered his opening statements first, citing the charges of aggravated vehicular homicide and two charges of driving under the influence against Jackson.

“This is a big case and a complicated case,” Homer told the jury. He explained the case first from the perspective of the survivor, Pat Nauman, and then ‘everybody else that got involved in this case.’

“Pat Nauman was married to Paul Nauman for 53 years,” he said, describing Paul as a man devoted to his wife, family and their families.

“He died driving on a road just a couple of miles from where he was born, where he lived, and on a road he knew like the back of his hand,” Homer said.

The asst. prosecutor went on to describe the sequence of events for the Naumans that led up to the time of the accident, and alleged Jackson’s headlights were 2 - 2/2 feet over the yellow line into the Nauman’s southbound lane. Homer said Paul Nauman veered to the right to avoid the impact, and Jackson did not correct.

Homer said the call of the crash came in at 6:49 p.m. The driver’s side of the car was sheared nearly in half, and Jackson’s red pickup truck landed on its side. Neighbors came running to help until emergency vehicles arrived, and Jackson climbed out of his truck.

Homer said witnesses at the scene smelled alcohol about Jackson’s person, and tried to assist the Naumans until help arrived.

Pat Nauman was transported to Morrow County Hospital for minor injuries. Paul Nauman was transported by air to OSU Medical Center in Columbus, where he passed away from his injuries.

“I think what the evidence will show is what Mrs. Nauman said [how the accident happened] is consistent and true,” said Homer.

Homer said he visited Molly Woos in Columbus because Jackson told a police officer (at the accident scene) he was ‘drinking martinis at Molly Woos in Columbus.’

Homer noted receipts - with one from Easy Street Cafe in Powell show a time of 5:48 p.m. He described the direction Jackson took from Columbus up I-71 north, saying Iva Drake was behind Jackson’s truck on I-71 and called 911 to report his truck was weaving on and off the right lane.

Jackson’s vehicle got off I-71 at the State Route 95 exit, turned right, then turned left on State Route 314, heading north.

After the accident, Homer maintains by the time Ohio State Patrol Trooper Carpenter arrives, “Jackson is gone. He basically runs into the cornfield and tries to hide.”

Homer said ambulance personnel would be testifying about events at the scene, including looking for Jackson after 7:30 p.m. A helicopter was dispatched for a search.

“Out in the cornfield, Jackson makes a bunch of phone calls,” Homer told the jury. “Dozens of phone calls… They find him in the field after 9:00 p.m. and take him to Morrow County Hospital, where they draw his blood about 9:50 p.m.”

Homer displayed maps of the road and area of the crash, the measurements and marks in the road that would be discussed in the trial and the investigation.

“After everyone testifies and gives their opinions, then you get to make a determination whether this is a vehicular homicide,” Homer told the jury. He explained how impaired driving is determined by both perception and by measuring against a standard (blood alcohol content). Homer relayed the information from the initial 9-1-1 call made by Ms. Drake on Interstate 71 (perception) and the B.A.C. of .181 from the blood test taken.

“We use that as the basis for considering the main charge in the case - aggravated vehicular homicide - [with] D.U.I. causing the death of another,” Homer said, relating how Pat Nauman said the red truck was over the yellow line, and they swerved to avoid him. The D.U.I. is the reason Jackson is left of center, Homer said, not because he ‘set out to kill Mr. Nauman.’

“So, when the evidence is all in, you can only come to one conclusion,” Homer said to the jury. “That man [Jackson] is the direct and proximate cause of Mr. Nauman’s death. A sober driver doing what he was supposed to on the roadway did not just get in front of a drunk driver! Mr. Nauman was trying to avoid the big red pickup truck coming right at him.”

Defense’s Opening Statements

“This case is about a series of assumptions, that lead to false conclusions, that lead to indictment that ultimately lead to us all being in this courtroom today,” began Defense Attorney Michael Lear in his opening statement. “On November 17 of 2011, a motor vehicle collision occurred that was a tragedy for two families. It’s a tragedy for the Nauman family, who lost their beloved Paul Nauman. It’s been a tragedy for the Jackson family because Cory Jackson, for the last two years and three months, has lived with the stigma of being charged with these crimes and has lived with the possible punishment of imprisonment as a result of these crimes.”

Lear stated the case began with false assumptions and ‘this case is going to show you the dangers of false assumptions and false conclusions.’

“You’re going to hear about traffic crash investigations and reconstructions,” he continued. “The traffic crash investigator is basically a detective who is dealing with a motor vehicle accident, and his role is to gather and preserve evidence, from which a reconstruction is done. Sometimes a reconstruction is not done, but the investigation is done first. From the facts that are gathered, conclusions can be drawn.

“In this case, things went backwards,” Lear told the jury. “There was a conclusion, then all the facts were viewed through the prism of that conclusion. Because of they were viewed through that conclusion, there was the false conclusion that Cory Jackson caused this motor vehicle collision.”

Lear reviewed the events of that evening, starting with the 9-1-1 call that came from Iva Drake, who was traveling behind Jackson’s red pickup truck, northbound on Interstate 71. He relayed the truck’s course on roadways and the search by the Highway Patrol to locate it. Shortly after, a call came in about the accident on State Route 314, but the officer turned the wrong direction, which delayed his arrival at the scene. He is then joined by another patrolman at the scene.

Lear said upon the officers’ arrival, they are told by witnesses at the scene that there are ‘odors of alcohol and the driver left the scene.’ Lear maintains Jackson was walking around the scene for awhile before he had to [relieve himself] and went into the cornfield to do so. Also, [OHP] Officers Burkhart and Carpenter are told by witnesses that [the victim] said Jackson was left of center, and ‘there is the conclusion right there.’

“There is a conclusion made before any investigation is done that Cory Jackson went left of center and caused this accident,” Lear said.

Lear said Jackson was laying in the field, dazed, disoriented and in shock from this accident. “They find him about 9:03 p.m. and he has to be helped out of the cornfield. So, the night of Nov. 17, Sgt. Burkhart and Trp. Carpenter walk the scene and create two documents - a schematic of the scene and a document that is key to this chart,” after which he displayed charts.

“You’re going to hear a lot about this mark, S and T,” Lear said of points on one chart marking the beginning and end of a tire mark. He explained a ‘yaw’; a mark left by a tire that is ‘sort of skipping,’ in this case representing the back end of a car ‘sort of fishtailing out of control.’ He also pointed out other marks on the chart.

“Their minds are already made up about what happened,” Lear told the jury. “In their minds, Cory Jackson was left of center, and that’s how they are viewing everything they are doing.”

He showed a chart of measurements made the night of the accident by the Highway Patrol, with each tire mark designated with a start and end. Lear made note of one ‘distinct’ tire mark that was not measured and showed a very distinct tire tread. Lear said officers failed to photograph the tires on both vehicles so they could possibly be matched to the tire mark.

“They made assumptions,” Lear maintained, “ignoring evidence, not preserving evidence and, later on you will see, changing evidence.”

Lear said the night of the accident, OHP took measurements and charted it out, marking S as the start and T as the end.

“There was only one southbound vehicle that night, and anyone can see this tire mark that crossed the double-yellow centerline was left by the Nauman vehicle,” Lear said. “However, that’s not how Sgt. Burkhart and Tpr. Carpenter told it. Tpr. Carpenter testified 10 days after that there was no evidence whatsoever of the Nauman vehicle over the centerline - he said it (the accident) happened in the southbound lane.”

Lear told the jury there were two ways they could look at it; the officers reached the conclusion in their mind and were so focused on their conclusion, they couldn’t ‘see the forest for trees.’

“They were just ignoring everything that was screaming out at them they had wrong,” Lear said. “The second way to look at it is, they knew they had it wrong.[But] I think they were so focused, they had blinders on and couldn’t see what was right in front of them.”

Lear maintained a serious of changes occurredsometime between when the chart was created (around the time of the accident but before Nov. 28, 2011).

“Sometime between the creation of this chart and Dec. 6, 2011 - a diagram of the accident - there is a change from what Tpr. Carpenter [said] regarding the accident happening in the southbound lane,” Lear said. “Within several days, before Dec. 6, we now have a different theory of different placement of the vehicles, but still with the Nauman vehicle in the southbound lane. On November 18, Sgt. Burkhart and Tpr. Brad Long went to the accident scene to take ‘total station measurements’ with a laser instrument. At that time they did what they thought was important - to do a traffic crash reconstruction and started generating reports.”

Lear continued that on Dec 6, ‘we have another theory being madethe Nauman vehicle straight in its lane and Jackson crossing the yellow line, but [he] now thinks the collision occurred south of the resting place of the Nauman vehicle.’

“Four days later, [there is] the same basic conclusion and a final report with another diagram of what occurred, but without the boldest tire mark playing no part in the accident,” Lear said, “a measurement chart showing S and T marks, changing a southward mark to a northward mark, indicating Jackson was left of center to fit their theory and conclusion of the case.

Lear said he was told Tpr. Carpenter was assigned to the accident reconstruction on Nov. 28, 2011, but said Carpenter was leaving it to Sgt. Frank Horvath to do it. They did not do a reconstruction, Lear said, and ‘you have to ask yourself why.’

‘The first reason is the line was so set on what they think happened: that assumption of the erratic driver was involved in an accident; he was wrong, he went left of center,” Lear said. “’Pat Nauman said he went left of center, so he went left of center and we don’t need a reconstruction.’”

Lear said the patrol didn’t do the reconstruction and never gave the defense the total station measurements.

“We waited and waited,’ he recalled. “Our investigator finished his report, and waits and waits for total station measurements. We don’t get them. He finished his report in early summer of 2012 and we continued to wait. He was hoping to incorporate those total station measurement into his report. We wait until summer of 2013 and produce our report. When we produce our report, the State of Ohio goes into ‘scramble mode’: Sgt. Horvath is called up and asked about the total station measurements and he says ‘oh yeah, we have them.’”

Lear said they give their report to Sgt. Horvath and [the patrol] ‘came up with their fourth or fifth theory on this.’

“Now their theory is yes, that tire mark - we all know was caused by the Nauman vehicle, they begrudgingly [acknowledge] yes, the Nauman vehicle went left of center,” Lear said. “Yes, the Nauman vehicle went into the yaw trying to correct back into its lane.”

But, Lear noted, the ‘only reason they did that is because Cory Jackson is left of center.’

“Had this been done the right way, had these conclusions not been reached, we wouldn’t be here today,” Lear stated. “They would know the Nauman vehicle went left of center. We know it now. Our theory of this case has changed so many times. Their theory is that Cory Jackson is at fault. So we’re going to admit to what we need to admit to… that the Nauman vehicle was left of center.”

Lear referred again to a chart that showed the point of impact and tire marks and accident reconstruction, stating, “Paul Nauman tragically exposed himself to a front end collision in the center of the roadway.” He went on to say what he expects Sgt. Horvath and others to say about the cause of the accident. He displayed photographs of State Route 314 and what a driver sees going southbound and near the crest of the hill. He questioned what would be seen when headlights crested the hill when it was dark in the evening.

“Paul Nauman made a mistake that night,” Lear said to the jury. “Paul Nauman [applied] his brakes and steered left of center, and tried to correct into the southbound lane. As much as the state and Mrs. Nauman would like to pin the blame on Cory Jackson, it was not his fault. It was the Nauman vehicle overreacting to a flash of lights with literally a second to do something. If the vehicle had continued straight, there [would be] no collision whatsoever.” Lear also reiterated the importance of the tire mark initially ignored.

Concluding, Lear said, “The State of Ohio has the burden of proof in this case. We have no burden whatsoever. [If] the state wants to charge someone and take away their liberty, they have to prove every fact and every essential element of the charges beyond a reasonable doubt. Even though we didn’t have the burden, we did what we assumed the state wouldn’t do, and get it right. We got it right. They cannot prove Cory Jackson was the proximate result of Paul Nauman’s death.”

Lear said the jury was going to see manipulation after manipulation by the state in this case, citing changing of the tire mark, not giving the defense total station measurements, not doing a reconstruction and questionable blood test processing.

“The worse thing you can do is reach a conclusion early, before your investigation is complete,” Lear told the jury. “You tend to see what supports your theory. Their mind was made up from day one. This was a tragic, horrible accident. You have the power to change at least one of the tragedies in this case; you have the power to correct what the state patrol screwed up so badly. You have the power to remove the threat of imprisonment and stigma for Cory Jackson. After you go through all the evidence, you can reach only one conclusion: Cory Jackson is not guilty.”

More articles will follow, with testimony from the trial.