Barnes Acquitted of Aggravated Vehicular Homicide
by Taylor Viydo, email@example.com & Xavier Walton, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Lander man who hit and killed an 11-year-old Crowheart girl was found not guilty on a felony charge of aggravated vehicular homicide Friday night.
However, William Barnes was found guilty on three other misdemeanor charges, including homicide by vehicle. While not a felony, that charge is classified as a high-tier misdemenor.
The jurors deliberated in a Lander courtroom most of Friday and reached their verdict just before 9 p.m. The trial began on Tuesday.
Barnes was also found guilty on misdemeanor charges of driving too fast for conditions and passing a school bus while it's lights were flashing. He was found not guilty on a misdemenor charge of not exercising due care.
Authorities say on December 20th, 2011 Barnes was traveling East on U.S. Highway 26 at 57 miles-per-hour when he hit Wind River School sixth-grader Makayla Strahle as she crossed the roadway just moments after getting off a school bus.
During the trial, Barnes took to the stand in his own defense and sated that he wished he could tack back what happened and switch places with the girl. He claimed that there was dense fog and blowing snow on the day of the accident. Barnes also had said that his vision that day had a "starry eye effect" due to recent radial keratotomy surgery.
Barnes says he thought the school bus was a livestock vehicle that was pulling over to the side of the road. He added that he saw one red light flashing at the last second, but by that point it was too late to avoid hitting Strahle.
Barnes' attorney, Devon Peterson, said he was happy with the verdict in regards to the felony charge, but said that the situation was still a sad one. "It's not going to bring her back or make [Barnes'] life any easier to deal with...It's not a real celebratory moment," said Peterson.
The prosecution declined to comment for this story.
Barnes' sentencing for the three misdemenor charges will be in a few weeks.