A mistrial was declared for the most serious charges facing Tavon Taylor, one of the men accused of participating in street race which killed eight people in Feb. 16, 2008. His sentencing date for the lesser traffic offenses has been pushed back to a date not yet to be determined.

Darren Bullock, the alleged co-conspirator, pleaded guilty to eight counts of vehicular manslaughter on Jan. 29 and on March 2, was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

It is alleged that Taylor, 20, and Bullock, 22, held an impromptu race on Route 210 in Accokeek, Md. Prosecutors believe a surveillance camera at the Beretta plant caught a glimpse of the two as they drove at speeds in excess of 100 mph. Seconds later, Bullock’s vehicle plowed through a crowd watching another street race.

Before receiving his sentence, Bullock read a prepared statement. “My heart goes out to everyone lies I’ve affected, including my family‘s,” he said somberly. “I know my family will keep you all in prayer.”

When Prince George’s Sheriff’s deputies slapped the handcuffs on Bullock’s wrists, the courtroom erupted in cries from Bullock’s family whose was there to witness the sentencing. While they know Bullock was the person directly responsible for the carnage that night, they believe there should be shared responsibility.

“You haven’t heard much mentioned about the 911 calls that were sent out before the accident notifying people that was going to happen,” said Michael Walls, Bullock’s uncle. “ just happened to be two people going the same direction at close to the same time.”

But families of the victims are not buying that rationale, and are still looking for closure. Bullock’s sentencing today was just not enough. Wanda Woodland, whose brother Milton Pinkney was one of the victims, is still in pain over the incident. She spoke at Bullock’s sentencing of her love for her brother.

“Milton was my brother, but he was more than that,” she said. “He was my closest friend and like a father.”

She indicated that she had spoken to her brother the night of the accident and is just looking for answers now. “I just want to know the truth about what happened,” she said while fighting back tears. “It took me a week to find out my brother was one of the ones who died.”

After having Friday afternoon and all day Monday to deliberate Taylor‘s fate, it was determined that the jury was at a deadlock. Taylor’s new trial date is scheduled to begin Oct. 18. “We’re looking forward to the ,” said J. Wyndal Gordon, Taylor’s attorney. “We really have an interest in bringing some closure in this matter.”

At the closing arguments on Feb. 26, Gordon told the jury that Taylor was an easy target of eager law enforcement and a hungry media. “He was targeted because of his naiveté, his immaturity and his lack of experience dealing with law enforcement,” said Gordon. “My client gave a total of 10 statements to law enforcement about this case. They led him to believe he was a witness the entire time and when they changed their tune to him being a suspect, they never advised him.”

Taylor’s family agrees with Gordon. They believe this is a case of trying to put an innocent young man in prison. “We feel like we’ve been railroaded,” said an angry Kim Carter, Taylor’s aunt. “We know that if they want to nail this boy to the cross, they’ll do it.”

Initially, prosecutors didn’t think Taylor’s car struck anyone that night, but after the testimony of the medical examiner, Dr. Carol H. Allan, it is believed that at least two of the victims were run over by another vehicle. Some of those inconsistencies may be what led to the hung jury. While some of those things didn’t go the prosecution’s way, Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Glenn Ivey said he won’t apologize about the way it presented its case.

“We’re not second guessing the way we did the trial,” Ivey said. “We’ll reach out to some of the jurors to get feedback, but I don’t think is going to be done different.”


George Barnette

Special to the AFRO