Wednesday, August 18

People Versus Bates

Slow Moving Motor Vehicle in Downtown Waxahachie
  • Ellis County at Law 2, Waxahachie, Texas
  • Judge A. Gene Calvert, Jr
  • Cases 10010052 and 10010829 (I'm not absoluetely positive I got this second number correct)
  • Kristin Barnes, Prosecuting Attorney
  • Bob Jones, Defense Attorney
  • Representing an allegation of Reckless Driving on January 13, against Reed Bates by Ellis County
STEVE NOTE OVERALL: Looking at these notes, I clearly made more notes about the prosecution claims and assertions than I did about the defense. Overall, I did not observe the defense saying things that seemed peculiar, which probably reflects my bias to some extent – I have actually ridden with the defendant and I’ve read much that he has written. This bias is probably exacerbated by Mr Jones being a fairly soft spoken gentleman, while the prosecutor took a livelier style. I have no reason to believe that the difference in approaches affected the verdict, and the issues at hand were much different than in the previous Ennis City case. Keep this note in mind while reading the following.

Abbey A Optimistic Before Trial
Proceedings began with a discussion about defense appeal of an Ennis City case, summarized here. That case was held on February 16 in Ennis Municipal Court. The prosecutor claimed that the appeal was filed too late (March 1). The defense claimed the appeal was timely. The judge abated the appeal discussion to allow an inquiry as to whether a written judgment referred to in the records, but not included, exists from the Ennis Municipal Court. The prosecutor requested to use Ennis judgment against the defendant in the case at hand. As will be seen, I think that request became irrelevant.

Defendant Reed, and Crystal, Before Trial

 Reckless Driving Alleged
In opening statements, the prosecutor indicated that on January 13, the defendant rode in the lane on Texas Highway 287 rather than on the improved shoulder and his actions deliberately, with conscious indifference, endangered people, thus rising to the level of reckless driving despite the defendant being on a bicycle.

 Three witnesses were called for the trial itself by the prosecutor. They were one of the 911 dispatchers, a firefighter who made one of the 911 calls, and the arresting Deputy Sheriff. Two added witnesses were sworn but did not testify during the trial itself. One testified briefly after the judgment.

First Witness
The first witness to testify was the 911 dispatcher, Nancy, who works in the Communication Division of the Sheriff’s Office. She indicated that 25 911 calls were made and that she took 15 of them. A CD was requested to be introduced as evidence. The defense objected to this as hearsay, but the CD was admitted as a basis for the initial stop.

The CD was quite long. After a few calls, callers were informed that an officer was on the way. Some were also informed that dispatch was familiar with the cyclist and he rode this route twice a week to and from the unemployment office.

While the 911 calls on the CD were only admitted as to their relevance as the basis for sending an officer to contact Bates, I can't say what other importance the judge might have placed on them once they were heard. One thing I found interesting is that in at least a half dozen or so cases, callers were careful to note that it was NOT an emergency. The defense later emphasized this, as you might have expected them to. In several more cases, the caller didn't have a chance to actually complain about the cyclist. Upon hearing they were calling from Highway 287 between Waxahachie and Ennis, the dispatcher cut off the call with "The bicyclist? We have an officer on the way." After that, the caller would simply say thank you and hang up. The second witness was one of the callers. As I recall (I can't be certain so don't take it as Gospel), he was one of the ones that indicated it was not an emergency, but he also indicated it would become one. Perhaps that is why the Prosecutor did the "DRT" thing as noted in the paragraph below.

Second Witness
The second witness to testify was the firefighter, Lonnie, who has been a firefighter for 23 years in Ennis. Queried about the conditions, he stated it was “not night and not raining.” Traffic was characterized as normal (medium). In his testimony, he indicated that he saw tail lights coming on “quick” and that he was frightened that a collision would occur shortly. He stated that an 18 wheeler ran up on the cyclist and apparently didn’t see him. During questioning, he indicated he was a cyclist and rode in rallies, and he estimated the defendant’s speed as 15-20mph. He stated the cyclist was in the outside lane in the middle. He was asked about the slang term “DRT” and he responded that it stood for “Dead Right There.” There was no further pursuit of this item. He also indicated he knew who the cyclist was, though it was never clarified if he knew the cyclist from before the incident, afterwards, or during.

STEVE NOTE: I have no idea what prompted the “DRT” question from the prosecutor, other than I’d not heard it before and found it interesting. Perhaps she thought better of another line of questioning.

Upon cross examination, Mr Jones asked Lonnie if he drove to the rallies and Lonnie indicated he did. In response to questions, he indicated he rides the shoulder because it is safer and the event organizers request them to. He stated he has never ridden on Highway 287.

Third Witness
The third witness to testify was the arresting deputy, Emiliano. Emiliano patrols and answers calls for service and is a certified peace officer for the Ellis County Sheriff’s Department. He was dispatched to make contact with the defendant on Highway 287 “in the middle of the road.” He made contact about 5PM (1720 in his report). At the time, Deputy Emiliano was northbound. He sighted the defendant (southbound) on the southbound shoulder where an Ennis Police Officer had completed a contact. The deputy completed a U turn and went to speak with the defendant so the 911 call could be closed out. He indicated the defendant stated he had a right to be there and cited Texas law. He also said the defendant stated that if he’d been driving a horse-drawn buggy, he had a right to be there. In response to prosecution questions, he stated that "impeding" meant “going slower than the other traffic. He indicated that traffic was heavy.

STEVE NOTE: Watching the video, I would not characterize the traffic as particularly light or heavy. There were “clumps” of motor vehicles that included three or four vehicles, and gaps of ten seconds or more between “clumps.” Testimony matches fairly closely with Reed's account of the event, here, here, and here. You can probably find more accounts in his blog as well, but those should get you the basic idea.

The deputy stated he told the defendant to stay on the shoulder and not to get back on the roadway or he’d be arrested. The prosecutor asked additional questions about the rights and duties of cyclists and the deputy affirmed that cyclists have the same rights and duties as motor traffic. He further stated that if the cyclist had been against the white line, it wouldn’t have been a problem. After this questioning, a video was shown. The video consisted of two distinct portions. In the initial portion, there was no video other than that which could be heard from inside the Deputy’s cruiser. It shows the deputy conversing with the defendant. Notable items detectable from the sparse audio were “impeding,” “riding on the road,” and “knows the law.” At the conclusion of this first portion, which appeared to be immediately after the warning (no citation had been given at this point), the Deputy went back to his cruiser and, as he opened the door, the defendant merged back onto the roadway and proceeded on it. The second portion consisted of the Deputy putting his lights back on, and then arresting the defendant. The video went on for a long time on this second portion, but there was little in the audio beyond an indication that the defendant was cooperative, which the deputy had stated, and an assertion, by the defendant at the beginning that the deputy was endangering the defendant by telling him to ride on the shoulder.

In cross examination, the defense attorney made the point that Bates was attempting to explain the law and safe riding practice. He also elicited a clarification that “middle of the roadway” actually meant “middle of the right lane.”

Prosecution Rests
At the conclusion of the Deputy’s testimony and cross examination, the defense made a motion for a directed verdict on the grounds that the prosecution had not presented any evidence that the defendant was “willfully or wantonly” endangering anybody. The motion was denied. The prosecution rested.
L-R, Defense Attorney Jones, Waco, and PM
Defense Presents
The defense called Reed Bates as its witness. He is currently employed in Dallas, but at the time in question, he was unemployed and had to go to the unemployment office over about a four month period. He stated that he rode his bike everywhere, including Waxahachie, because he had no motor vehicle and no means of obtaining rides.

During questioning, he described Highway 287 as a 4 lane, 2 way highway with a median. He also went into added detail about his attempts to explain why he was operating within the Texas Vehicle Code. Specifically, he stated he was operating in accord with The Texas Transportation Code 551.103, exceptions 4a and 4b, and these were read to the court. He further stated in response to questions that he’d ridden Highway 287 at least 20 times with no incidents and considered the road perfectly safe. He also discussed alternate routes during questioning, and stated that neither alternate was practical or safe.

Prosecution Questions
The prosecutor questioned the defendant about the Texas Statute involving shoulders, particularly the portion that allows a cyclist to ride on the shoulder. In some rather argumentative questioning (most of which was successfully objected to), the prosecution claimed that the law gives the cyclist a choice, and he chose the dangerous choice, the middle of the lane. The words “common sense” were used quite a bit in this line of questioning. She also tried to elicit a concession that bike is less visible in the dark, which the defendant did not agree with, including a brief description of his Planet Bike Superflash.

STEVE NOTE: In the Deputy’s video, it is light when the initial contact was made, but was getting dark by the time the second portion was done. The stop was in January and my recollection is that things are pretty dark in North Texas by about 5:45 or so. I like the Superflash as well, though I have not customized my own, other than bending the contact a bit so it is more reliable than it used to be.

Everyone Rests & Closes

Bike Rack at Ellis County Court, but No Cyclists This Day!
Closing Statements
The prosecutor stated that a bike is a vehicle and the cyclist is subject to all of the rights and duties of any vehicle operator. She further emphasized that the cyclist had a choice to make whether to ride the shoulder or the traffic lane. Her contention was that he deliberately chose the dangerous option in view of the “heavy traffic” and “near collisions” when he had another legal option available that common sense indicated would be safer, and certainly would be safer to the other road users the defendant was endangering willfully.

The defense attorney stated “the law is the law” and the defendant was riding in full accord with two exceptions to the “far to right” rule. What’s more, he was riding in a manner that was safe, on a road he rode many times before, and that he had reason to believe that riding on the shoulder was more dangerous. What was more, the prosecution presented no evidence he was doing anything dangerous at all other than assertions by witnesses.

In prosecution rebuttal, the prosecutor stated that the cyclist did not follow the duties expected.

Before passing judgment, the judge asked about the definition of the edge of the roadway. Neither attorney could state for sure. The defense attorney offered to provide case law the next morning. He opined that he “thought” it probably treated the shoulder and roadway as separate and distinct entities (my words) and the judge indicated he (the defense attorney) was probably right.

The judge began by noting that it was fine for a cyclist to ride on the roadway, but it must be in a safe manner. He indicated that Reed may well have actually BEEN safer riding in the lane on Highway 287. He then cited the high level of concern on the day in question and the defendant’s disregard of the officer’s request. He further noted that road safety included not only the defendant, but the other road users who might be unfamiliar with cyclists riding on a road such as the one in question. As a result, he was presenting a hazard and was guilty.

The prosecutor called Ennis Officer Lance Watson to testify in support of a request for a stiff sentence. She attempted to show a video that showed a traffic stop by Officer Watson the day after the event just tried. Defense objected, the objection was sustained, and the Watson video was not shown.
The judge noted that traffic statutes needed to be considered as a body, including the minimum speed statute. He went on to note that the defendant’s actions were, in many ways, admirable and lawful. However, he drew an analogy from baseball. It is good for people to swing a bat and play the game. However, this good action can become dangerous as added people crowd into a space and swinging the bat can become a danger. Good judgment is required, since conditions vary.

After this, there was some discussion about how many days the defendant spent in jail. Records showed him there for 18 days. The sentence was as follows:
  • 13 days in jail and $100 fine, with credit for time served.
  • 5 days of jail time served credited against court costs (estimated at $512.10)
  • The judge also offered to arrange a payment plan or community service if the defendant wished.
Mr Jones and the other observers I knew expressed the sentiment that the judge was about the best that could have been obtained to hear the case. Reed indicated he wanted to appeal. Mr Jones also stated that he felt the decision was a close one and that was one reason the penalties were mild, and the judge did not press the defendant to accept the deal.

STEVE NOTE: I'm inclined to agree with Mr Jones regarding the judge and the judgment. It was definitely not your usual "racing, embracing, or 20 mph over the speed limit" reckless driving charge you learn about in Driver's Ed. On the way home, I observed a white pickup run off the right side of the traffic lane, across the rumble strip, and partway onto the shoulder of Highway 287, before recovering and moving back into the right hand lane.

This Truck Ran Off Onto the Shoulder Before Recovering as We Drove Home.
You'll Note It is Now Hugging the Lane Left Side. We Passed it with EXTRA Care
Applicable Texas Statute Links
Texas Reckless Driving
Texas Bicycle Operation on Road
Texas Operation on Shoulder


PM Summer said...

Excellent account, Steve.

There were false, and important, testimonies made. The fireman knowingly stated that everyone on the Cow Creek Classic Bike Rally (1300 riders) rode single file on the shoulder (he blushed deeply when saying this). Jones had a sly grin.

The prosecutor sated that she thought the Legislature had designated a minimum speed on the highway. It hasn't.

The DRT (Dead Right There) was injected to give the judge a mental image of a crushed body.

Oddly (and of no importance), I took a photo of that same empty bike rack as well. LEEDS certification crap only.

Steve A said...

What really puzzled me was how the fireman KNEW Reed, or so he claimed. I don't know about others, but I'd have a heck of a time being able to pick a cyclist out in a courtroom after passing him on a highway unless I knew him from other circumstances. I'm not sure I could ID myself if I could pass myself. I know I rarely see the faces of any motorist that passes me unless I catch up to them at the next stoplight, and Reed looks quite different than he did back in January. He actually cleans up real nice.

Did that fireman have a grudge against Reed? We shall never know. Was he the guy following Reed down the highway flashing his lights? We shall never know.

As for other points in PM's comment, I'd agree with each of them. As I also recall, it was stated that there was no minimum speed, despite what the prosecutor stated and what was echoed back by the judge in the judgment. That would be in any formal transcript.

Keri said...

Excellent report! Thank you!

Principled Pragmatist said...

Why no expert witness from the defense?

Here's the judge, with 25 (!) 911 calls and everyone who testified except for Reed himself saying riding a bike there was, essentially, "reckless"... kind of hard to imagine him ruling otherwise, even as rationalized and convoluted as his reasoning had to be to do it.

Eli Damon said...

Thanks for detailed account.

I don't understand what the 911 callers could have said except that there was a cyclist on the road. What relevant facts could they have given? And it sounds like the firefighter couldn't say much more than that either. And he said that controlling the lane was dangerous but he has no expertise in cycling safety and there was no discussion of the principles of cycling safety, so why does his opinion matter?

PM said that the prosecutor conceded that controlling the lane was safer or might be safer, which is inconsistent with this account. I hope I was not wrong in passing on that detail.

The truck veering off the road onto the shoulder is ironic because that is precisely one of the hazards of cycling on the shoulder.

RANTWICK said...

Thanks very much for your good work on this Steve. It's the next best thing to being there, which is an impossibility for me.

Anonymous said...

"25 (!) 911 calls ... "

Which were probably called in on cell phones whilst driving (research showing this as dangerous as DWI) the irony...oh, the irony.

ben said...

I have been called out. And the police have stopped me. Yet they just gave me an escort :).

Apertome said...

Great report! Thanks for taking the time to write it up.

Based on your report, I thought the allusions to "common sense" on the part of the prosecutor should have been picked apart. Vehicular Cycling goes against what a lot of people consider "common sense," yet it is highly safe and effective, in general. I agree with the above comment that an expert witness could/should have addressed this, and other concerns.

I'm really shocked at the outcome, twice now. What the heck is going on there?

John said...

The 25 calls to 911 puzzles me as well. That seems excessive. Were these all regarding the same incident, in the same afternoon? How to explain the fact that other cyclists riding on high speed state routes don't seem to generate this? Are there really that few of those cyclists nationwide that it's never come up before? What about Mighk Wilson and Keri Caffrey making their video last year? Is it a Texas thing?

Anonymous said...

Time for the ACLU - this appears to be selective enforcement of the law, never mind the fact the prosecution never proved reckless intent.

John said...

And he didn't generate 25 911 calls the other 20 times he's ridden on this highway?

Principled Pragmatist said...

"[The 25(!) 911 calls] were probably called in on cell phones whilst driving (research showing this as dangerous as DWI) the irony...oh, the irony."

Yes, by riding his bicycle in the travel lane, Reed was effectively pouring vodka into the veins of the drivers forced to call 911 to report his reckless behavior, making his behavior all the more reckless.

Principled Pragmatist said...

How to explain the fact that other cyclists riding on high speed state routes don't seem to generate this?
Few cyclists would choose to ride in the travel lane of a road with high speed motor traffic when there is a shoulder that appears to be usable at all. That doesn't mean Reed's choice to ride in the travel lane was reckless.

Principled Pragmatist said...

The truck veering off the road onto the shoulder is ironic because that is precisely one of the hazards of cycling on the shoulder. - Eli

Indeed, but few people have taken the time (a few minutes) to understand why this is the case. Without taking that time, it can easily seem that you're much more vulnerable in the travel lane since motorist veers into the shoulder are so rare.

The critical distinction is driver awareness. Veers into the shoulder are almost always inadvertent, indicative of the driver being distracted, which means he is likely to be unaware of not only his veering off course, but also of the cyclist's presence in the shoulder.

But even the most distracted driver traveling in a lane needs to pay attention to the travel lane ahead of him, at least momentarily every few seconds, or he veers off course. So anyone in the travel lane has looked ahead, and will have noticed a cyclist up ahead in the travel lane, by definition.

Codger said...

The Court's ruling and even the Judge's comments explaining his ruling turns the concept of "rule of law" upside down.

Consider the Judge's statements about swinging bats in a crowd. Chipseal could hardly be considered a crowd of one - it is the crowd of speeding, recklessly negligent motorist who can be compared to "swinging bats".

John said...

What is the marked speed limit on that road? Did that come up? I fear that in the court of uninformed public opinion, with a marked speed of 60 or greater, we won't get much sympathy.

Principled Pragmatist said...

The marked MAXIMUM speed limit should be irrelevant.

There is no marked MINIMUM speed limit, and unmarked minimum speed regulations can only apply to those reasonably capable of going faster.

This is not a freeway. There are at-grade intersections and driveways. It is my understanding that the shoulder varies in width and quality between acceptable and unacceptable.

Steve A said...

At that location, the posted maximum speed is 65mph. There is no posted minimum speed and Texas has no statute defining a minimum default speed, nor of a "pull over" law such as California has. The road in question is NOT a limited access road, despite the posted limit.

Clyde S. Dale said...

So the cyclist was guilty because riding in the road is 'unsafe' due to the incompetence of other drivers? Interesting....

Driving REQUIRES everyone to be alert for the unexpected; if all a driver had to deal with was what is expected, we wouldn't need insurance, would we?

Principled Pragmatist said...

A slow mover should be expected, even on a freeway, but especially on a non-freeway. Certainly a slow-mover should not be unexpected.
Could be a car or truck with mechanical difficulties, a tractor, a horse and buggy, or yes, a bicycle. That's one of the reasons we have a basic speed law.

Steve A said...

All these comments elicit more memories that I didn't write down! Here goes:

I do not know why there was no defense expert witness. I surmise it was part of "the law is the law" approach that might well have worked with another judge in another place, and appears to have nearly worked with this one in this place. I think it was also likely that an extended defense would not improve the disposition of the judge. Such was almost certainly the case with the jury in the Ennis city trial back in February.

911 calls - the dispatcher indicated they'd received 911 calls on Reed on other occasions. It was not clarified if these counted towards the 25 total or if they were additional. The dispatcher clearly knew that Reed made this ride twice a week which would not have been the case had there never been calls prior to the day in question. I do wish that, through this sequence of events, someone had explained the law simply and clearly to the dispatchers and officer rather than leaving them to their own devices. Bicycle law fine points are not something that come up every day in Ellis County

Nobody raised the point of endangerment due to cell phone use at the trial. It didn't occur to me until I saw these comments.

PP's points - my daughter, who doesn't ride much, understands the danger to a cyclist on the shoulder very well since we were following that pickup for quite a while, waiting for him to roll over the rumble strips again. We also noticed that the debris on the shoulder appeared to be lightest at the very far right edge of the shoulder, since that was far enough from the roadway that stuff didn't get thrown there as often. If any reader wants to ride Hwy 287's shoulder, I recommend the far right edge next to the grass. It also has the advantages that if you fall, you're less likely to fall into the roadway, and any driver coming towards you over the rumble strip has more time to wake up and recover.

We did not see any tractors on 287 except for the top photo. All the following motorists were very patient with the operator, as they would have been with a cyclist in that urban section. I HAVE seen tractors there in the past.

Principled Pragmatist said...

I'm really bothered by the lack of expert testimony for the defense.

Even if it would not have swayed the judge, it would be testimony upon which to claim error made by the judge in preparation for an appeal.

Maybe showing error on the part of the judge is not required for appeal in this case? Hopefully.

coachphelan said...

GREAT write up, Steve. Thanks for these notes and your being there for the rest us. Very well done.

What should be of note to the cycling community is the important precedent this has the possibility of becoming, questioning whether bicycles should use public roadways. The ramifications could be immense.

When I give talks involving bikes and bike safety, I start off by asking the question, “What is no wider than a horse back rider, travels at the same speed as farm equipment, and is the same height as motorcyclist, but on the road doesn’t get the same respect?” Then I let the question hang there without answering.

(I love the point about the cell phone users making those calls.)

whareagle said...

Coach, all the more reason why we need to get you on board with others, so that we can all teach the same methodology, to the wider audience that needs this.

Cycling is SO MUCH MORE than just bikes.

Codger said...

@ Principled Pragmatist. Expert testimony may have been beyond ChipSeal's financial resources.

No evidence was presented that ChipSeal was operating his vehicle recklessly. The sole rationale for the conviction was based on ChipSeals operating his vehicle on the roadway rather than on the shoulder. Texas code allows, but does not require cyclist to ride on the shoulder. The net effect of the Court's ruling is to rewrite that section of code to some foggy notion that a cyclist's right to the road is abrogated when motorist from the rear may not be expecting to see a cyclist on the road - thus requiring the cyclist to use the shoulder.

The Court's ruling turns the concept of "rule of law" on its head. According to the Courts's ruling, had there been minimal motorist traffic on Hwy 287, then he would not have been convicting of reckless driving. However, the approach of a cluster of motorist operating their vehicles at high speed, suddenly converts ChipSeal to a reckless driver, even though the actual manner in which he operates his human powered vehicle remains constant. Recall the Judge's analogy of a crowd swinging bats... by the Judge's on rationale it should have been the crowd of motorist approaching ChipSeal from behind who were driving recklessly.

It appears to me that the essential complaint and concern by those supporting prosecution of ChipSeal is that his presence on the roadway impedes the accustomed flow of traffic. However; because it is fairly well established that such a charge is not valid against vehicles operating at their maximum speed, another rational for prosecution had to be found.

Principled Pragmatist said...

Good points, Kenneth. However, there were several people attending in the audience who qualified as traffic cycling safety experts who could have been called, just to establish that what Reed was doing was safe from a cyclist's point of view. However, I recognize that would have limited value, since the judge said even if it was safer for the cyclist, the problem was the danger to others.

This comes down to a matter of law, and how the lawfulness of behavior is determined, so an expert witness might not have helped much. Hopefully this will be appealed and the appeals court gives it the thought it deserves.

Anyone know anything about transcript availability yet?

Anonymous said...

"Good points, Kenneth. However, there were several people attending in the audience who qualified as traffic cycling safety experts who could have been called, just to establish that what Reed was doing was safe from a cyclist's point of view."

As a cyclist who logs 5,000 to 6,000 miles per year, I doubt you could find many cyclists that would say that was anywhere near to being safe. I certainly would not. Fortunately for us cyclists, there are not more people going to extremes to prove their point or this would lead to more "No Bicycles" signs.

Principled Pragmatist said...

"I doubt you could find many cyclists that would say that was anywhere near to being safe."

Oh, I agree. Knowledge of bicyclist safety is very poor, even among experienced cyclists. Few cyclists have read the books and studies, so all they can do is go by their own personal experience and anecdotes from friends, all of which is biased by experience limited to riding in a manner that they believe is safe (driven by an inordinate concern about safety threats from the rear, they usually ride too far right, where conspicuousness and sightlines are compromised).

At any rate, all that is besides the point, which is that no law prohibited him from riding there (the statute governing cyclist roadway positioning explicitly allows for it, due to the narrow lane), he believed it was the safest place for him to be, and we should all support his right ride to where he believes he is safe, especially if he's in compliance with the law.

danc said...

25 "911 calls" for a cyclist the road? Give me a break, sounds like misuse of 911?

Does a prosecutor decides what is the safer option, based on the number of 911 calls?

The Judge asking about definition of "roadway" is curious. Keeping it simple, a road (roadway shorten) is the area between the between the white lines where traffic operates. Shoulder is not a part of the road. A shoulder's primary purpose is support the road and provide a breakdown space for emergencies. Possibly the Judge missed the point, riding on the shoulder is the bicycle driver option, not based on popular opinion.

John Forester said...

I offer my services as litigational consultant and expert witness, at no charge beyond direct expenses.

Steve A said...

I will forward Forester's offer to the defendant, in case he's been too busy trying to get out of the financial hole to read this directly.

The 25 calls was sworn testimony by the dispatcher, who said she took 15 personally. The prosecutor recently inherited this case from a previous prosecutor. That is related in the ChipSeal blog as the reason for the trial date change.

PM Summer had to be squirming in his seat when the discussion of "roadway" was going on. As a witness, he'd properly explained it in the previous trial. In the event, it looks like the judge fixed the proper definition in his mind before making the judgment.

Khal said...

Certainly the reckless driving charge and conviction is outlandish. But why haven't any cycling-savvy attorneys offered to take this case pro bono, since Mr. Bates is indigent? Does this conviction qualify as precedent given the status of the court where it was tried? If it was appealed and lost in an appellate court, then would it establish precedent, as Selz vs. Trotwood certainly should?

I am more than a little surprised that neither the state nor national cycling organizations (LAB, Bike TX, Thunderhead, etc.) have jumped on this case if it is as much of a slam dunk as many posters suggest. Where are the Steve Magas and Bob Mionskes of Texas right now?

Steve A said...

If the case were a slam dunk at trial, it would have been won. Actually, had it been a slam dunk at trial, it would never have been tried. IMO, it was tried because the defendant was a poor person that was engaging in fringe (vehicular cycling) behavior that appeared dangerous and contrary to common sense to the bulk of the local justice community. I think it got worse because that poor person didn't just "go away" when he became a target. I guess we'll find out whether or not it is a slam dunk at appeal, because I'm certain Reed WILL appeal unless his lawyer cuts him off and he can't figure out how to do it all on his own. If it is lost at appeal, we shall all have to live with it, regardless of what we think about the whole thing.

As far as I know, no cycling organization has contacted Reed's attorney, and it'd be pretty hard to "jump on" the case without taking that step. I do know that none had representatives observing either trial, though I also know Gail Spann of LAB had planned to attend the latest one.

If I have learned nothing else about Mr Bates through this, I have learned that he holds strong principles and opinions, and will pursue them regardless of the advice of his friends or his foes. While I might not always agree with his actions, I respect his determination very much. The LAB suggestion of him as "under influence" of unspecified persons is about 180 degrees off target. I just hope he IS under the influence of his attorney, who has struck me as a very sensible and down to earth person, and not incompetent, as some have suggested.

I know that Magas has expressed interest in the facts of the matter. He would be the one to ask the last question to. I think some of it may just be that it takes time for all this stuff to seep out and become known and absorbed. Had you or I been the one targeted, things would have moved much quicker because we have access to more resources and better communications than Reed. Reed did not even have a phone until after the first trial.

Khal said...

If this goes to an appeal, the major cycling organizations may have no choice but to get involved, because we want the appeal to turn out favorably. Or at minimum, work to ensure a ruling, if unfavorable, is very narrow.

The President of the BCNM is an attorney. Her advice in general: "stay out of the courtroom - one never can predict the outcome"

John said...

Was there any questioning about the CONTENT of the 911 calls, or was the only consideration relating to them the fact that they were made at all? If so, it seems that solely the FACT that they were made was taken as prima facia evidence that Bates was causing a problem?

Steve A said...

Please see clarification update on the 911 calls I added a couple of minutes ago. I previously noted the basis for their admission into evidence over defense objections.

If the defense missed an opportunity here, it's that they didn't ask the dispatcher why she didn't inform callers that the cyclist was operating in accordance with Texas 551.103. Of course, she probably didn't know that.

Anonymous said...

In my view, it's the people who called 911 who should have been cited, for making a call to emergency services when there was no emergency and no laws being broken. The 911 dispatcher who called in the cops should be fired because he or she doesn't understand that a bicycle simply riding on a roadway is not a police matter. Everyone who escalated this and put Mr. Reed in jail should be ashamed of themselves. I understand Texas has lots of people who are committing actual crimes, not fantasy ones that are only crimes in some morons' heads.

Khal said...

I would never discourage someone from making a 911 call in good faith and frankly, I bet its not just the rural folks from TX who would have been alarmed by seeing Mr. Bates riding in the lane of a 65 mph road. Many cyclists would also be alarmed.

Its not the fault of the citizen that Bates was convicted, even the ones on that jury, but of bad judiciary and police work. Citizens are not necessarily going to be experts on vehicular cycling. Its the job of the court professionals to figure this out, bring proper charges, and give good instructions. Frankly, I would not have opted for a jury trial because this case would be so loaded with misguided "good intentions". But its a little late to be doing soul-searching. This case was a disaster but its not the 911 callers who shoulder the brunt of the blame.

Principled Pragmatist said...

I observed a truck with a very heavy load going 15 mph today up a grade on the freeway among 65-75+ mph traffic. Saw nobody swerving, slamming on brakes, and seriously doubt anyone was calling 9-1-1.

Steve A said...

I took our motorhome over I-70 and through the Eisenhower Tunnel. At one point near the top we were crawling up at less than 15mph.

By the way, in the HH100 nobody told us to ride on the shoulder and certainly 14000 cyclists made no attempt to ride no more than two abreast.

Codger said...

Any Updates? It has been nearly 3 months. Does anyone know if Bates did in fact file an actual appeal or at least a notice of appeal?

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