The second day of the trial of Jack Haut in Starke Circuit Court ultimately ended in a verdict for one count of Reckless Homicide, a Class C felony after his truck struck the motorcycle of Tom White, killing him. After a brief deliberation, the 12-person jury returned with a guilty verdict, and Haut’s sentencing is set for August 17th at 11:00 a.m.
When the day began, the state called Coroner Kristopher Rannells as a witness. Rannells was called to the scene of the accident shortly after it occurred. He found White dead on the scene, and took photographs for the record of the body. These photographs were shown to the jury, including some pictures of gruesome lacerations and fractures to various parts of the victim’s body, such as the face, legs, arms, and hands. White’s chest cavity was caved in and misshapen with a large bruised area, which is a rare injury because a lot of force is required for bruising to occur after the heart stops beating. Rannells said that injuries this substantial is consistent with a crash at highway speeds (55 mph) or greater.
The cause of death was determined to be massive head and heart injuries, and Rannells said that a helmet, if one were worn, would not have saved White’s life; the injuries to his chest alone were enough to kill him.
A little over three hours following the incident, Haut gave a recorded statement to Detective Robert Olejniczack in which he said that, at the time of the accident, he was headed home after going to Walmart in Valparaiso to buy a birthday card for a friend. He said he had no recollection of the crash and did not recall passing any vehicles on U.S. 35, but he said that he did not remember any landmarks after passing the 4-H Fairgrounds sign three and a half miles before the location the accident occurred. A search of Haut’s vehicle returned no Walmart bag, and no greeting cards were found in the area of the crash. Detective Kenneth Pfost testified that the Walmart security cameras had no footage of Haut purchasing greeting cards that day.
Dr. Scott Krieger of the Indiana State Department of Toxicology was then called to the stand as a witness for the state. Krieger told the jury that he analyzed a blood sample from Haut which tested positive for alprazalam and oxycodone, both drugs prescribed to Haut by a physician for various conditions he suffers. The drugs were well within the therapeutic range prescribed. Haut has gone through several surgeries for various injuries his body sustained after being bitten by a brown recluse spider several years ago, and medication was prescribed to him for the pain as well as anxiety and nerve disorders. These medications are known to cause patients to be lethargic, and slow to react, which could have influenced his ability to drive.
The state rested and the defense called its first and only witness to the stand: Haut. Haut said he is prescribed Dilata, Oxycodone, and Xanax, which he took as prescribed every day since 2005. Haut said he has no recollection of anything after the 4-H Fairground sign on U.S. 35, and doesn’t remember going to Walmart in Valparaiso. He said he hadn’t been drinking, but he has no recollection of the accident, the trip to the hospital, or talking to police.
In the state’s final argument, Bourff said that Haut was driving recklessly, forcing drivers off the road, speeding, and driving in the opposite lane of traffic. After Haut passed two vehicles on U.S. 35, he pulled back into his normal lane of travel, but veered back to the opposite lane where he struck the motorcycle of Tom White. No brake lights were seen by witnesses, and there was no testimony that would indicate why Haut did not recall anything from the accident or afterward.
For the defense, they said that this was a tragic accident. Haut’s speed could not be determined by the state crash reconstructionist, and the coroner said that the injuries were consistent with highway speeds. They argued that the medication in Haut’s system were not abused, but were in fact within the therapeutic range prescribed by a physician. No alcohol was involved in the accident.
After the final arguments, the jury was released to deliberate and assemble a verdict following the final instructions. A guilty verdict for reckless homicide was returned after about an hour of deliberation. The sentencing for Haut is set for August 17th at 11:00 a.m.