CLINTON—The homicide trial for Lee Harold Cromwell, the defendant in a fatal parking lot crash after fireworks in Oak Ridge on July 4, 2015, started Monday in Anderson County Criminal Court in Clinton.
The trial started with jury selection. About 115 potential jurors received instructions from Senior Judge Paul Summers on Monday morning.
A jury of 12 people and three alternates will be selected from among the 115 potential jurors.
Summers, appointed to hear the case after Judge Don Elledge recused himself because of liens filed by Cromwell, said he expects the trial to last three days, although that is not guaranteed.
The plea deadline for Cromwell was February 3.
The witnesses that are expected to testify include current and former Oak Ridge Police Department officers, victims of the crash, and Julia Robinson, the wife of James Robinson, 37, the Knoxville man who died in the crash.
Cromwell, 68, is accused of killing Robinson and injuring 11 others when he backed his Dodge Ram pickup truck through the crowded parking lot at the Midtown Community Center on July 4, 2015, after fireworks at Alvin K. Bissell Park.
Cromwell was indicted by the Anderson County Grand Jury on May 3, 2016. The indictments alleged that Cromwell recklessly killed Robinson with his truck and assaulted, with his vehicle, Robinson and 11 others, some of them children: La’Ruis Henderson, Ja’Taalia Henderson, Ja’Shalin Porter, Le’Meire Porter, Curtis Booker, Michael Eldridge, Elizabeth Eldridge, Mortisia Corey, and Robinson’s family—wife Julia Robinson and daughters Jaide and Jackie Robinson.
The specific charges in the indictments were vehicular homicide, reckless homicide, criminally negligent homicide, 12 counts of aggravated assault, reckless endangerment when a deadly weapon is involved, and driving on a suspended or revoked license.
The charges were sent to the grand jury by Anderson County General Sessions Court Judge Roger Miller after a preliminary hearing in Oak Ridge on January 15.
The defense has said the throttle in Cromwell’s Dodge Ram pickup truck stuck.
But that claim was disputed during the preliminary hearing by testimony that witnesses heard the engine rev up and down that night, and not stay at a consistent rpm.
Police said they found no evidence of a malfunction in the pickup, and there were no active recalls on it that would have affected the throttle.
One witness testified that Cromwell hit a Ford Thunderbird while backing slowly through the parking lot, stopped, continued backing slowly until he hit a van, stopped, and then “floored it” before hitting a group of cars in front of the Midtown Community Center, injuring people and killing James Robinson.
After the preliminary hearing, defense attorney James K. Scott said that he expects that mechanical issues and questions about the Dodge Ram pickup will be raised in additional legal proceedings, and he’s still viewing the July 4 crash as an unintentional acceleration.
Anderson County Deputy District Attorney General Tony Craighead is the prosecutor in the trial.
To convict Cromwell, the state will have to convince the jury that Cromwell is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
More information will be added as it becomes available.
Follow Oak Ridge Today for updates throughout the trial.