Defense begins case in '97 Edwardsville Middle School accident trial
An Edwardsville police officer was the first witness Thursday to testify for the defense in a Madison County trial involving a 13 year-old accident case.
Plaintiff Cecil Dial Jr. was hit by defendant Brad Joiner's SUV at Edwardsville Middle School in December 1997.
The then 11 year-old Dial Jr. suffered a massive head injury.
Joiner denies that he caused the accident and alleges that Cecil Dial Jr., now 24, contributed to it.
The suit's original 2004 trial ended with a defense verdict.
Jurors in that two week long trial were sequestered and at one point there was a move for mistrial.
The plaintiff, and his father also named as a plaintiff in the case, asked for and were given a new trial by then presiding judge, former Madison County Associate Judge Ralph Mendelsohn.
On appeal, the Fifth District Appellate Court agreed with Mendelsohn, sending the case back to Edwardsville for a second trial that got under way Monday.
The case has gone through a string of judges including Mendelsohn, Andy Matoesian, P.J. O'Neill and George Moran.
Madison County Associate Judge Clarence Harrison II now presides.
Officer Timothy Gallion testified about the day of the accident for the defense. He was the officer in charge of writing the initial report.
Gallion testified that Joiner had told him that he was reaching up for some papers and did not see the boy before he heard a "thump," and he stopped the vehicle. Gallion also testified that Joiner did not admit to taking his eyes from the road at the time of the accident.
Defense attorney Stephen Mudge questioned Gallion at length about the condition of Joiner's car and its position.
Gallion testified that he did not see front end damage to the car and that it had been in the same condition as at the time of the accident when he and an officer from the Illinois State Highway Patrol examined it.
Gallion said he interviewed both Joiner and an independent witness about what happened at the time of the crash.
There has been some dispute in the case as to where vehicles were positioned after the accident and whether Cecil Dial Jr. was on his side of the road where precisely the accident took place.
Witnesses have testified that there was no center line or cross walk at the accident site.
On cross examination, plaintiff's counsel Charles Armbruster asked Gallion is he had talked with the plaintiff's mother, Constance Dial, after the accident.
"I would have interviewed Mrs. Dial had she not been rushed off to the hospital with her son," Gallion said.
Constance Dial testified Wednesday that Joiner "blurted out" that he had taken his eyes from the road while reaching for papers falling from his dash board.
The officer said he had not interviewed Constance Dial before he was reassigned from the case.
Armbruster also asked several times about Joiner reaching for the papers. He often used the term "reaching over," a point later addressed in redirect by Mudge.
Harrison had to break up a heated squabble between Mudge and plaintiff's attorney Roy Dripps after Mudge asked Gallion whether the plaintiff's counsel were trying to "deceive" witnesses and jurors in the case by using photos of the Joiner car that had different surface finishes.
The two attorneys began to argue with each other after Dripps objected.
Harrison stepped in.
"Gentlemen, your arguments are [made] to me, not to each other," Harrison warned.
Mudge had previously objected to questions about a photo of a clean SUV that appeared to be the Joiners' but that Gallion was unable to identify positively as that car.
He termed it "trying to pull a fast one," citing the witness' previous answers about the car's condition and Gallion's previous answers.
The trial will resume Friday.
Testimony in the plaintiff's case included doctor testimony, that of a vocational specialist and other witnesses.
Joiner has a claim for set-off pending against Constance Dial and former defendant Edwardsville Community Unit School District #7.
The case is Madison case number 1998-L-899.