Judge rejects request for jury to view Lansdowne stroller death site

LEESBURG, Va. — Jurors in the involuntary manslaughter and reckless driving trial of John Miller IV will not be brought to the intersection where 5-month-old Tristan Schulz died after being struck by Miller’s SUV.

Prosecutors allege Miller’s inattention and actions behind the wheel led him to hit Schulz Aug. 31, 2016, as his mother, Mindy, pushed his stroller across Riverside Parkway at Coton Manor Drive.

Miller’s lawyers have not challenged he struck the pair, but have called the incident “a tragic accident.”

Mindy Schulz was seriously injured, but has recovered.

Loudoun County Circuit Court Judge Douglas Fleming denied a motion from prosecutors to transport jurors to view the Lansdowne intersection during Miller’s trial, which is scheduled to begin Oct. 10.

“The view appears to be of little probative value,” wrote Fleming in his order, saying jury views of crime scenes are appropriate “only where other evidence is inadequate to fairly present the case to the jury.”

Last week, prosecutor Sean Morgan said transporting jurors to the site would help them visualize the eyewitness testimony of 14 people who will likely testify for the commonwealth.

Defense attorneys Steven Webster and Aaron Book argued that a sign that reads, “Drive safely in memory of Tristan Beckett Schulz,” approved by the Virginia Department of Transportation, would prejudice jurors.

In addition, defense lawyers said having jurors stand in the intersection would not provide the same perspective Miller had behind the wheel that day.

The defense suggested that the pillar between his driver’s side window and the windshield obscured his view, contributing to the crash.

In court filings, at least one eyewitness for the prosecution said Miller appeared to be looking at his phone at the time the boy was struck.

In his ruling, Fleming said prosecutors have hundreds of crime scene photos, as well as detailed crash analysis to call upon.

“Not only would the flow of traffic need to be stopped at the intersection — requiring the involvement of numerous law enforcement officers and causing significant inconvenience to the the public — the news of the view’s occurrence could potentially lead to persons gathering at the intersection, which would create safety concerns,” Fleming wrote.

Miller is charged with involuntary manslaughter, reckless driving and failure to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk.

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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