The attorneys for an Athens Independent School District bus driver indicted in connection with the January auto-train crash in which one child was killed and another student was injured have filed a motion for an emergency continuance of a pre-trial discovery hearing scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 12.
The motion filed with the Henderson County District Clerk's office said the attorneys for John Franklin Stevens are asking for the continuance due to the fact that on Tuesday, Sept. 3 Steven's attorney received the Event Data Recorder (Black Box).
The motion stated the district attorney responded to a request for discovery material on August 23 said, The investigating agency to this case did not subpoena or obtain the documentation or the EDR nor did the District Attorney's Office, so it is not in the possession, custody or control of the prosecuting agency."
According to the motion filed the attorneys for Stevens received an email on Tuesday with additional pieces of discovery evidence including the 'black box'.
The EDR (black box) appears to have been emailed to the District Attorney on April 30, 2019.
The defendant's attorney said the motion was being filed not merely for delay but so “justice may be done.” The attorneys are requesting additional time to review the discovery evidence.
On Friday Distirct Attorney Mark Hall filed a response to the defense attorneys continuance.
Hall said, “While the state does not agree that the defense motion rises to the status of an “Emergency” it does not oppose the continuance of the Pre-Trial Discovery Conference requested by the defendant.”
“At the time I filed my response to the defense motion on August 23, I did not have a specific recollection of having signed the subpoena (for the black box),” said Hall. “I became aware on Sept. 3 that the information had indeed been receive by my office. We immediately reduced the information to a disc and notified the defense that it was available for pickup, which was delivered the following morning.”
Hall said the information or the black box was not in the case file, which included a list of all discovery evidence that was delivered to the attorneys for the defense.
Stevens was indicted in May for the accident on January 25. The bus driver was making the afternoon run of an Athens Independent School District bus with two children aboard. At about 4 p.m., the bus reached the railroad track and went into the path of a westbound Union Pacific freight train. The collision killed 13-year-old Christopher Bonilla and injured 9-year-old Joselyn Torres. Stevens was also injured. Torres was airlifted to Children's Medical Center in Dallas, where she was treated and released a few days later. Stevens was treated at UT Health in Athens and released.The case was turned over to District Attorney Mark Hall and presented to a grand jury. The Grand Jury indicted Stevens on May 31 for criminal negligent homicide and injury to a child. No trial date has been set.
Stevens is being represented by attorneys Justin Weiner, Mike Head and Bryan Schmidt.