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Loudoun judge denies prosecution’s request for jury visit to scene of Lansdowne infant killing

The scene at the intersection days after the fatal Aug. 31, 2016 Lansdowne crash. Times-Mirror File Photo
Loudoun Circuit Court Judge Douglas L. Fleming on Monday denied a motion presented by prosecution lawyers for the jury to visit the intersection where Lansdowne baby Tristan Schulz was struck and killed by a car in August 2016.

Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Sean Morgan sought permission for the jury to be taken to the scene where five-month-old Tristan was struck by a vehicle on Aug. 31 as his mother pushed him in a stroller across Riverside Parkway in Lansdowne.

The driver of the vehicle was 45-year-old John Miller IV from Leesburg. Miller has been charged with one count of involuntary manslaughter, one count of reckless driving, and one count of failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. He is scheduled to go on trial in October.

At the Loudoun Circuit Court on July 19, Fleming listened to arguments and counter arguments over whether a visit by the jury to the scene should be permitted.

Morgan said the purpose of the motion was for the jury “to better understand the evidence” and to see different perception points the 14 eyewitnesses would have had on the day of the crash.

Lawyers for Miller argued jurors would be prejudiced by memorials and highway signs erected at the scene in memory of Tristan. Defense attorney Steven Webster said for the jury to have Miller's view they would need to sit in his car to have “the exact same perspective,” and that it wasn't “a controlled environment.” He added photographic and highly accurate diagrammatic evidence made a visit “unnecessary.”

Webster also referred to a delay added by the Virginia Department of Transportation to the traffic signals, meaning the pedestrian light now appears 10 seconds earlier. On Aug. 31, 2016, the green light and the walk sign appeared at the same time.

Webster argued that these changes could affect the jury's impartiality when visiting the site

Morgan argued the traffic signals could be turned off so the changes made since August 2016 could not be seen and the highway signs in memory of Tristan covered or temporarily removed, along with other memorial items.


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Comments


downtownres - Cause & fault does not necessarily mean criminal.


How about the issue of being distracted while looking at his phone! That’s why it should be criminal, that action has nothing to do with VDOT, traffic signals or stop signs. Get off your phones and actually drive the vehicle, not just roughly aim it in the direction you want it to go and hope you don’t run over anything in the process. There are NO accidents, there is always a fault! cause and effect… effect doesn’t happen without a cause!


I have the same question and Tickle Ivory.

Also what is there to see if the jurors were allowed to the site? They have added some signs honoring the baby’s life, and delayed the traffic walk signal by 10 seconds and added a couple of yellow crossing signs. I pass this section of road daily and people continue to fly at least 60 MPH (if not 70 MPH ) .The limit is 40 MPH, I go 45 MPH and people are flying by me on the left. Yes this is riverside Pkwy I am talking about not the 7 freeway


Tickle - He’s saying that it was just an accident with tragic results, that isn’t criminal.  Accidents with tragic results happen daily.


Will somebody please explain, I am confused as to why there is a trial.  Is Mr. Miller claiming that he is not responsible for the death or is he just trying to reduce the charges?  What is he defending?  Is he saying he didn’t do it or what.


Seems like the right call by the judge.


VDOT needs to be held accountable. There are many dangerous intersections with 4 way stop signs(and many drivers don’t understand how they work). Lights in front of schools during summer vacation should be blinking yellow. Other signal lights not in sync or timer’s off. I can’t recall last time I saw a VDOT person/truck working. They must hibernate during the summer.


The only way to give the jurors even a close visual of what happened that day would be to bring them on a clear, sunny, second day of school when all drivers should be more cautious than normal, especially those who live near the school. That way they could see that there is no way this tragedy could have happened unless the driver was grossly negligent, not paying attention as he hurried through the crosswalk and forever changed a young family, and who then only thought of himself as he called his lawyer while hiding behind his car as other drivers came to aid the victims. It would be a shame to give the jurors this visual.


Perhaps the defense could consider some middle ground. Photos and diagrams are static representations while video with cars going the speed limit or perhaps even drone footage from overhead would help. Nobody should have their life snuffed out while in a stroller!
Bob O__ Esq.


Good call.


“to better understand the evidence” really means to tilt the jury based on an emotional reaction vs. the facts.

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