Driver’s phone unused before Lansdowne baby crosswalk death, lawyer says

WASHINGTON — Lawyers for the man charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of an infant, say forensic testing shows John Miller IV didn’t use his smartphone before the crash that killed 5-month-old Tristan Schulz.

Schulz was killed Aug. 31, 2016, as his mother Mindy, pushed him through a crosswalk on Coton Manor Drive in Lansdowne, Virginia.

Miller was indicted on a charge of felony involuntary manslaughter, as well as misdemeanor reckless driving. He also was cited for failure to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk.

Search warrants filed before his indictment said a driver following Miller’s Jeep Cherokee saw him holding a phone in his left hand, as if he were reading or watching something.

In a motion filed Monday in Loudoun County Circuit Court, defense attorney Steven Webster argued prosecution evidence regarding Miller’s possible cellphone use should not be presented to a jury.

Webster said three eyewitnesses provided vastly different statements regarding where Miller was, and what he was doing, before to the fatal crash.

In addition, Webster said forensic research of Miller’s Android phone by a detective for Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office found he hadn’t used it before the crash.

In “Defendant’s First Motion In Limine,” Webster wrote Detective Matt Bressler’s report was exculpatory.

“Around the time of the accident, Mr. Miller did not call anyone; did not text anyone; did not read the text he had received earlier that day; did not access his email; did not access the internet browser; did not access his voicemail; and did not access any social media applications,” Webster wrote.

While Bressler’s report indicated “Android Usage Stats shows the messaging app active at 08:09:25,” (the time of the crash) Webster said Bressler was unable to show if or how the application was used.

With no specificity provided about how the messaging app might have been used, Miller’s attorney said “such evidence is speculative … and should be excluded.”

Loudoun County prosecutors Jim Plowman said his office will have the opportunity to argue against Webster’s request in court, and declined to offer an initial reaction to the filing.

Miller’s jury trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 10, 2017. He remains free on a $10,000 personal recognizance bond.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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