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Posted: February 10, 2010 12:30 a.m.

Prior arrest allowed in Workman case

Judge undecided on suppressing certain statements from incident

Newton County Superior Court Judge Eugene Benton ruled that a prior arrest and conviction of driving under the influence would be allowed in the case of Johnny Otis Workman, the man accused of driving drunk and ending the life of an Oxford man in July.

Workman is charged with homicide by vehicle in the first degree, driving under the influence (less safe and controlled substance), fleeing or attempting to elude, reckless driving, driving while license suspended, failure to maintain lane and operating a vehicle without insurance.

According to Georgia State Patrol Trooper Brian Cuendet, moments before the accident occurred on July 5, a trooper had attempted to stop Workman on the Access Road. He stopped momentarily, but when the trooper began exiting his vehicle Workman allegedly sped off, traveling westbound. Roughly a mile down the road Workman reportedly lost control of his Pontiac Grand Prix and struck the motorcycle which was traveling in the opposite direction. Deputies responded to the area at Access Road and Old Oxford shortly after 3 a.m. David J. Nunnelley, 45, was pronounced dead at the scene.

According Assistant District Attorney Clint C. Malcolm, Workman was convicted in September of 2008 of DUI in Monroe. The accident in Newton County occurred less than a year later.

Benton also heard motions to suppress the statements of two Georgia State Patrol Troopers, arguing that Workman had been read his Miranda Rights when he made certain statements on the night of the accident.

GSP Trooper Calvin Barton testified that he first noticed Workman when he pulled into QuickTrip and an off-duty deputy Barton was speaking with allegedly said that he had arrested Workman before and that his license was suspended. He told the judge about the high-speed chase that ended when Workman reportedly crashed his vehicle.

"He went over the crest in the road at Old Oxford and I lost sight of him. As I crested the hill I saw a burst of flames… The whole chase lasted less than a minute," said Barton.

Barton and other troopers who responded to the accident had to cut Workman’s seatbelt to help get him out of the fiery wreck and Workman sustained burns on his arms and face. Barton admitted asking Workman for his name, if he had been drinking and why he ran from the trooper and said that Workman told him that he had just been released from prison, his license was suspended and he was just trying to get his life together roughly six minutes after being pulled from the wreck. At this time Workman had not been Mirandized and was not officially told he was under arrest.

"I’m not sure if I told him he was under arrest but I felt like he knew he was not free to leave," said Barton.

He also testified that troopers did not realize that Nunnelley had been hit until one walked away from the wreck to help a vehicle turn around on the road and saw the motorcycle.

Cuendet testified that he arrived when Workman was being loaded into an ambulance. He was strapped to the gurney but otherwise unrestrained. He said that he did not read him Miranda Rights but that he read Workman implied consent to check him for intoxication and Workman consented. He also testified that he could smell alcohol on his breath and that Workman made a spontaneous statement that "he knew he should have stopped when he saw the blue lights," and admitted to drinking one beer earlier.

"It was my understanding that he was under arrest," he said.

Malcolm argued that troopers could ask basic questions without reading Workman his Miranda Rights and that his spontaneous statements are admissible.

Workman’s Public Defender Jennifer Arndt argued that since Workman did not feel he was free to leave that the statements be suppressed at trial.

"If an officer thinks he [Workman] is under arrest then clearly Johnny Workman would think so too," she said.

Benton told both attorneys that he would take the matter into consideration and decide shortly as to whether the statements would be allowed or suppressed. The state announced they were ready for trail but the defense asked for more time before making that announcement. Benton gave them until Feb. 23 to make their announcement.

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