BREAKING: Barnes’s attorney files for acquittal; Barnes to testify in his own defense

By Joshua Scheer, reporter,

(Lander, Wyo.) – William Dean Barnes’s defense attorney Devon Petersen filed a motion this morning for the court to acquit the defendant of felony aggravated vehicular homicide. Ninth District Court Judge Norman E. Young has taken the motion under consideration, but he said he will not act on it until the defense has made its case to the jury.

The motion followed the state resting its own case on the third day of the trial. Barnes is charged with felony aggravated vehicular homicide and four misdemeanors: homicide by vehicle, maximum speed too fast for conditions, passing a stopped school bus with flashing red lights and exercise of due care by driver. On Dec. 20, 2011, Barnes was driving on U.S. Highway 26 toward Lander when he allegedly ignored school bus warning lights, striking and killing Makayla Marie Strahle.

The motion for a judgement of acquittal applies only to the felony charge. Peterson filed the motion and presented his case to Young outside of the jury’s presence. “The state has not proven or shown any evidence that Mr. Barnes drove recklessly that evening,” he said.

The felony charge on the table, if Barnes is found guilty, could carry a prison sentence of up to 20 years.

Deputy County Attorney Kathy Kavanagh disagreed and said the fact Barnes passed a stopped school bus is evidence enough.

Also during the jury’s absence, Peterson said that Barnes would in fact testify in his own defense. Young made sure Barnes knew he was not required to do so per his Constitutional rights.

The morning session consisted of multiple testimonies from Wyoming Highway Patrol Trooper Brian Bragonier, Deputy County Coroner Vernon LaJeunesse and Chief Deputy Coroner Mark Stratmoen.

Photos of the Makayla’s body were shown to the jury. Her family and others in the court left so they did not have to see the photos.

A more detailed account of the morning’s events and of those to occur this afternoon will be posted this evening. To read about day one, click here, and to read about day two, click here.