Amy Clampitt is expected to take the stand in her own defense as she faces a manslaughter charge in the death of her boyfriend Jimmy Dugan.
“This is a case about recklessness,” Fifth Judicial Circuit assistant district attorney Kevin Hall said in his opening statement Wednesday. “This is not a case about intention or emotion. It is not our contention (Clampitt) meant to kill Mr. Dugan.”
The State of Alabama contends Clampitt was behind the wheel of an automobile in January 2017 when she tried to avoid a traffic stop in the Eagle Creek area. Clampitt and Dugan were ejected from the car traveling at a high rate of speed at the intersection of Concord Road and Highway 49. Dugan was pronounced dead at the scene and Clampitt was flown to a Columbus hospital for her injuries.
Clampitt’s attorney Michelle Perez said in her opening statement Clampitt was not the driver of the red Oldsmobile that night. Perez said Clampitt had a checkered past with drugs and had been in and out of jail and spent some time in prison but Clampitt and Dugan were cleaning up their lives together.
“They hit it off together,” Perez told the jury.
Perez stopped short of telling Clampitt’s and Dugan’s story as Perez expects Clampitt to take the stand in her defense.
“I’m not going to tell you much because it’s Amy’s story to tell,” Perez said. “She is going to testify. She is going to tell you how different this has been for the last two years. Some of it is not pretty. It’s not going to be easy. She is sitting up here, her body is broken. Some is broken emotionally.”
Hall and chief assistant district attorney Mike Weldon called witnesses who put the automobile in the hands of Clampitt, who was running from a traffic stop.
“I was traveling north on Highway 49,” Tallapoosa County deputy sheriff Win Knight said. “I met a vehicle going (more than) 70 mph in a 55,” Knight said. “I watched it pass by and noticed a taillight busted in my rearview mirror. I turned around on it and tried to execute a traffic stop.”
Knight testified he could not catch up to the vehicle as it left the area just south of Eagle Creek Baptist Church near midnight. He said he saw it turn on DW Road without using a turn signal and he followed, catching up to it at the intersection of DW and Concord roads where he turned on his lights, siren and body camera.
Knight said the vehicle turned right onto Concord Road and reached speeds in excess of 90 mph in a 45 mph section. Knight said he slowed his pursuit before crossing Gardner Dairy Road knowing it was a blind intersection and with an intersection with Highway 49 coming up.
Knight testified he saw the vehicle again shortly after it crashed at the intersection of Concord Road and Highway 49.
“I noticed a stop sign in the middle of the road still spinning,” Knight said. “There was dust in the air.”
Alabama Law Enforcement Agency State Trooper Dan Jackson — who has been certified in traffic homicide investigations since 2010 and testified in more than 50 traffic homicide cases — testified the driver of the vehicle lost control of the car as it started to travel down a hill on Concord Road toward the intersection with Highway 49. The car traveled off the road and struck a ditch with the driver’s side of the vehicle becoming airborne before the car flipped twice. Jackson said Dugan was at least 20 feet from the car and in his opinion Dugan was ejected through the passenger window.
Knight said he got out of his vehicle and found Clampitt and Dugan ejected from the car — Clampitt screaming in pain and Dugan bleeding from his head.
“I found her in lots of pain,” Knight said. “I watched (Dugan) take his last breath.”
Video from Knight’s body camera was shown to the jury. Knight can be seen assessing the scene, quickly moving from Dugan’s body to comforting Clampitt by holding her hand until EMS arrived, something Knight said he was taught in training.
“You have to leave the ones behind you can’t help,” Knight said. “You comfort the others as much as you can.”
Then-Tallapoosa County deputy sheriff Chance Hall testified Clampitt was just 3 feet from the driver’s door with Knight helping her when he arrived on the scene.
Perez questioned ALEA State Trooper Steve McWaters about the presence of alcohol or drugs at the crash scene. He said there was no evidence of it but accident reports said it was unknown.
Knight questioned Clampitt while he comforted her about who was driving and why they ran.
“I was driving,” Clampitt said in the video. “I had a warrant for a traffic ticket.”
Clampitt also kept asking about Dugan.
“Is he OK?” she can be heard asking. “I was just trying to get home, get to bed and go to work.”
As Clampitt struggled at the crash scene, Knight told her to keep fighting and she needed to breathe and wait for help to arrive.
“Don’t give up on me,” Knight said in the video. “You have some fight left in you. Squeeze my hand. You are going to be all right.”
The video shows Clampitt offering a statement without being questioned by Knight as she laid on the ground near the overturned car.
“Jimmy, Jimmy,” Clampitt could be heard calling out in Knight’s body cam video. “I’m so sorry. I’m sorry. I love you. I’m so sorry.”
The trial continues 10 a.m. today in Dadeville.