Monday, August 3, 2009

Monday News: Arraignment for Accused in Steve Barbour's Death

The biggest story in the Columbus cycling community recently has been the death of Steve Barbour at the hands of an allegedly drunk driver, Edward Scott Miller. Miller's arraignment was scheduled for Tuesday, July 28th at Franklin County Courthouse. Consider Biking put out a call for cyclists to be present at the arraignment and wearing their helmets as a show of support for cycling and to remind the proceedings that cyclists were indeed paying attention to this case. The Dispatch's Bruce Cadwallader and Jeb Phillips cover the story quite nicely.

Here's the correspondance I've had with Jeff Stephens, the Executive Director of Consider Biking, regarding the morning. Jeff's comments also include those of long time Central Ohio Cycling Advocate Jon Gideon.

I’m going to snip John Gideon’s play-by-play. Bottom line is that Judge did address us personally. He explained the process in layman’s terms…and answered every question we had. He displayed insight & compassion to our cause. Good guy! Most importantly….I’m so proud of the 50+ cyclists that represented our constituency with dignity, respect, and polite behavior. The “buzz” throughout the courthouse will be favorable….that the cyclists are watching/attending in mass, and…maintaining the “reasonable” demeanor that has won us so many local advocacy victories in the past few years.

Media is also watching…and noticing our favorable actions. The media will be vigilant on our behalf…and, will take lead in investigative reporting. (I’ve been in direct contact with many outlets….)

<Jon's Snip>

I got there just before 9:30. It was standing room only. Bikers holding helmets lined the room and took up most of the seats. I didn't see Mrs. Barbour.

A number of other cyclists arrived after me. Didn't see Edward Miller. Most of the folks who were at Schoedinger's Sunday were there. Mabye 50 to 60 cyclists.

Reporter Cadwallader of the Columbus Dispatch was there, standing up front near the Judge's bench.

The courtroom was packed and a little noisy. The judge (Judge James Green) had to pause and tell people to be quiet early on. He ordered a couple of people out of the courtroom for talking. Municipal courtrooms, especially arraignment courtrooms are usually somewhat noisy anyway. All the court personnel and prosecutors and attorneys were constantly scurring up and down and back and forth and calling defendants' names. One defendant after another was arraigned, and usually on very minor charges (like possession of drug paraphernalia) and making pleas and getting sentenced (fined).

Finally, maybe about 10:15 or so, someone (of us cyclists) was asking around if the case was definitely on the docket. I had assumed that someone checked that before I came in. I went up to the table and asked the courtroom cop and he showed me the list of defendants and the name Edward Miller. His case hadn't been called.

I then went out in the hall to see if Miller was out there. He wasn't. I had a confab with Jeff Ferriell and a couple other cyclists and explained that Miller's case could be called very quickly or it could be called around lunchtime.

We went back in. Shortly thereafter Judge Green's bailiffs and assistants could be heard asking around if there were any felony defandants in the courtroom. Then Judge Green could be overheard from the bench softly asking his assistants if anyone had or had seen the file on Edward Miller. It seemed that no one had it.

Shortly after that Judge Green addressed the courtroom (possibly upon being advised by Reporter Cadwallader that the room was filled with bicyclists) and asked people for a show of hands who were there "on the bicyclist case"?

When he saw 50 to 60 hands raised he went "WOW"! He immediately asked all the cyclists to go out into the hall and he would come out into the hall and talk to us.

We did.

Judge Green told us that he understood and appreciated our all coming down to the arraignment/preliminary hearing, and we were all welcome to stay, but that nothing significant was going to happen today, that he was going to have to reschedule the case for 15 days. And during that 15 days, because Miller was being charged with a felony, the County Prosecutor would be taking the case to a grand jury and the case would be handed over to a Common Pleas judge.

Judge Green mentioned that he was a cyclist, the two-wheel kind without a motor, and that not long ago he became a "biker" of the two-wheeled kind with a motor. And he said that he is very concerned about his safety on the road.

He also again repeated that he understood our reasons for being there, but that he thought we should go home and leave justice up to the justice system.

Jeff announced that we would be keeping everyone updated on the Consider Biking website and by newsletter and Facebook and Twitter.

Cadwallader mentioned that he was doing a story that would be in the Dispatch tomorrow.

As the crowd began to break up I noticed a TV camera near the door of Judge Green's courtroom. The cameraman may have been filming Judge Green's talk to the crowd of cyclists.

Most of the cyclists left then, while little groups of cyclists stayed and chatted and talked about getting lunch.

I had to run over to the Columbus Police Department for a police report on a motorist failure to yield to a pedestrian in a marked crosswalk back in Sept. 2007. The case was on NBC4 back in Oct. 2007 and we're using the news report in support of our "Vulnerable Roadway Users Right-of-Way Protection Bill." Only problem is we didn't have the name of the motorist. Until now.

Hope that gives you the flavor of what happened this morning.

I was really glad to see so many cyclists. It really sends a message about this case and about the attitude of the bicycling community.

People, not speed.

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