CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A Charleston police officer will not go on trial in connection with a deadly accident that happened earlier this year.
Officer Stephen Doss was supposed to go on trial Monday, but instead pleaded guilty Wednesday to failing to use his lights and sirens in the crash that killed an 80 year old woman.
Doss was responding to a report of a man armed with a knife in the Orchard Manor housing complex when he allegedly slammed his police cruiser into Dora Clarke’s car. It happened in the 400 block of West Washington Street in Charleston on Jan. 4.
Prosecutors said video footage shows Doss traveling at more than 70 mph in a 30 mph zone. Clarke died five days after the crash.
Kanawha County Assistant Prosecutor Fred Giggenbach said Wednesday’s plea deal was a fair resolution.
“This officer admitted to what he did was wrong, he failed to use his lights and sirens and in doing so he killed someone. The family agreed to the plea and, in the end, it was a good resolution,” he told reporters.
Prosecutors requested several motions during Wednesday’s hearing in Kanawha County Circuit Court including one that would bus the jury to the crash scene. Kanawha County Circuit Judge Duke Bloom denied the motion.
“I don’t see any advantage to doing a jury view. I haven’t seen the videos, but I assume there’s videos of the scene as it took place,” the judge said.
One of the motions requested by the defense was to exclude autopsy photos of Clarke. Doss’ attorney Michael Del Guidice said it would be unnecessary to show the jury photos of a person who was not murdered.
“This is not a typical criminal case where you have someone who shot somebody, who had stabbed somebody, beat somebody half to death. This is a case of a car accident, and quite frankly judge, it was an extremely minor collision,” Del Guidice said.
Giggenbach argued that Clarke was severely injured as a result of the accident.
“Dora Clarke had a fractured skull. It was not a minor accident. When you watch the video, you’ll see the defendant was driving 77 on West Washington Street, slowed to around the 50s and there was a major collision where he nailed her,” Giggenbach said.
Doss was initially facing a more serious negligent homicide charge which would’ve carried a one year prison term and a $100 fine, but the charge was dropped. A speeding charge was also dropped. He initially wanted to enter a no contest plea deal, but Kanawha County Circuit Judge Duke Bloom denied it.
“There’s a death result and he’s not even willing to acknowledge and plead guilty and take responsibility, so I’m not sure that I’m on board unless I’m going to get a guilty plea,” Bloom said.
According to Doss’ attorney, he’s still on paid administrative leave. Prosecutors said it’s not a guarantee that Doss will get to keep his license. The City of Charleston will have to decide whether or not to keep him on the force.
Last week, Charleston City Council approved a $675,000 settlement for a wrongful death claim that followed Doss’ accident.
Doss now faces up to 10 days in jail when he’s sentenced Dec. 7th at 3 p.m.