Jurors sitting in Trent Stanley’s trial on murder charges in connection to the death of Grayson County Sheriff’s Deputy Chad Key last April spent Tuesday hearing from Department of Public Safety officers and watching video of the collision that killed Mr. Key.
Jurors, and others in the east courtroom at the Grayson County Courthouse, gasped when shown a dashcam video of Mr. Key’s body flying across the roadway and coming to a stop near the right-hand shoulder on U.S. Highway 82 at Bethany Road. Testimony and photos showed that the deputy, who had only been on patrol for 77 days, was struck so hard he was knocked out of his shoe and his wedding ring. The items in his pocket and on his service belt left a debris field that looked like a small tornado had torn through the area around him.
DPS Sgt. James Cain testified that he was on the scene of the wreck that night because he had been riding along with Trooper Kevin Galyon when Galyon heard about Bonham Police Department’s chase of Clinton Espy. Espy led BPD and other Fannin County law enforcement on a chase into Grayson County before being stopped by a spike strip laid by DPS troopers. BPD officials had already removed Espy from the scene on Highway 82 when Stanley struck and killed Mr. Key. Espy later pleaded guilty to several charges including evading arrest and detention with a vehicle, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and manufacture of methamphetamine over one gram but under four grams, according to the Fannin County District Attorney’s Office. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison for those crimes and those sentences were set to run concurrently.
Cain said he and Galyon were still on the scene and were working to get information off the tires of Espy’s truck when Cain heard someone yell to get out of the way. When he looked up, Cain said, all he saw was black because Mr. Key’s body was blocking the lights from the truck Stanley was driving. Cain said he and other troopers jumped up onto the wrecker to avoid being hit.
Trooper David Taylor dissolved into tears when talking about what happened to Mr. Key.
“I saw my life flash in front of me,” an obviously shaken Taylor told jurors. Taylor and other DPS troopers testified they knew Mr. Key from his work as a jailer at the Grayson County Jail. Taylor said the last time he saw Mr. Key before he was struck, Mr. Key had a flashlight in his hand and he was signaling traffic to turn off of the roadway. He said he saw a vehicle strike Mr. Key and then saw that same vehicle keep coming straight at him and the other officers. They got out of the way and the vehicle kept on going. Testimony from other witnesses showed that a Savoy police officer chased the truck down and stopped Stanley about a mile up the road from the place where Mr. Key lay in the roadway.
Cain and others tried to administer first aid while waiting on emergency medical personnel. Taylor said he was so shaken up that he couldn’t get his car in gear at first. He was then able to move the car to block the roadway to protect Mr. Key and the people who were trying to help him.
Troopers repeatedly testified that no one saw the truck Stanley was driving slow down until after he had struck Mr. Key. Stanley’s attorney Gaylon Riddels repeatedly asked the DPS officials why no one but the wrecker driver and one police officer were wearing reflective clothing at the scene and why Mr. Key was directing traffic with just a flashlight as protection from the oncoming traffic. Riddels asked why the DPS didn’t do a complete accident reconstruction on the event that claimed Mr. Key’s life and why no one seemed to know who told Mr. Key to direct traffic in the first place.
Texas Ranger Brad Oliver was the last witness to hear Riddels’ repeated line of questioning Tuesday. Riddels asked the officer who investigated the crash why he hadn’t ordered the complete reconstruction since the DPS has the ability to perform one. Oliver said there was no need for one since they had video from several different viewpoints of the incident and since they didn’t have all of the information they normally need for the reconstruction to prove useful. Oliver said they didn’t know, for example, exactly where Mr. Key was standing when he was struck. Riddels asked DPS officer after officer why they weren’t wearing reflecting clothing. They all testified that they just didn’t see the reason to do so that night. Some said the incident at Highway 82 and Bethany Road seemed more like a criminal investigation than an accident scene until Mr. Key was struck. Others said they don’t generally wear the reflective gear. Oliver said he didn’t think that the reflective clothing would have made much difference in the case. He said they knew the speed that Stanley was going when he hit Mr. Key because Stanley told them it was 60 miles per hour.
Riddels asked Oliver if the reason the DPS wants his client to have been going 60 miles per hour when he struck Mr. Key is the fact that he would be breaking the “move over law” if he didn’t slow down to 20 miles below the speed limit and move over when he saw the flashing lights in the lanes ahead of him.
The defense attorney also asked why the DPS didn’t have several other items done like zooming in on the license plate of the vehicle in front of Stanley that night or use all of the video tape to extrapolate answers to other questions.
Oliver called the very idea that the DPS could do those things “the CSI factor” and said the department does not have that technology.
Riddels continually questioned why officials did not do things differently the night Mr. Key died. He also questioned why Oliver didn’t recuse himself from the case when he learned that a woman who was one of the last people to see Stanley before the accident was a woman Oliver had known, in an intimate way, years before.
Oliver said he didn’t question the woman himself, another official did. However, he said, he didn’t think his previous relationship with the woman was relevant to the case at hand.
Members of Mr. Key’s family left the room when jurors were repeatedly shown footage of the father of three being run down. Mr. Key left behind a wife, two small sons and one grown one.
The case resumes Wednesday.