By Kim West
The criminal trial for an Alabama state trooper facing two misdemeanor charges of criminally negligent homicide tentatively has been set for April 29 in Limestone County Circuit Court.
Trooper James “Heath” Moss, 31, of Athens is accused of causing a fatal car accident that claimed the lives of Tanner couple Jamie Lee Gossett, 31, and Sarah Rene Gossett, 38, and two family dogs on April 25, 2011.
Records show that the wreck occurred at about 9:35 a.m. at the intersection of Lucas Ferry and Moyers roads.
The Gossetts were stopped at the intersection in the southbound lane of Lucas Ferry Road and preparing to turn east onto Moyers Road when they were struck from behind by Moss, who was headed to the scene of a one-car accident on Huntsville-Browns Ferry Road to provide traffic control.
The impact sent both cars off the road and into a field, and the couple’s white 1995 Mitsubishi Mirage caught on fire.
Lucas Ferry Road is a two-lane road with a slight rise on the southbound lane near the intersection, and a posted speed limit of 45 mph. According to a Gossett family attorney, the black box from the trooper’s car indicated Moss was driving as fast as 120 mph immediately before the crash.
District Attorney Brian Jones said Moss was not texting or using a computer when the accident occurred.
Upon review by an 18-person Limestone County grand jury, Moss was charged in November 2011 with a misdemeanor of criminal negligence instead of a felony because he was not under the influence of alcohol or another drug.
The state offered the Gossett family a $1 million settlement 16 days following the accident but the family declined. Attorneys on behalf of the family filed two separate civil lawsuits against Moss seeking unspecified damages and a jury trial.
Moss is currently assigned to administrative duties at the Alabama State Troopers office in Huntsville.
Moss had been scheduled for trial on April 30, 2012, Sept. 24, 2012, and Feb. 11. His April 29 trial date will likely be rescheduled due to a backlog in the court system, according to the district attorney.
Jones said 400 cases were set for jury trial in February in a court system with one functioning courtroom. He said his last two jury trials were from 2009 and 2010, and that his office is processing approximately 1,100 new cases per year.
“This case has drawn a lot of media attention but it’s no more and no less important than any other case, and there are a lot of cases ahead of this one,” Jones said.
Criminally negligent homicide is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in the county jail.