Crime scene photo evidence debated during deadly 2021 hit-and-run hearing

Published: Jan. 5, 2023 at 6:16 PM EST
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - A debate played out in court Thursday over gruesome crime scene photos and which ones to allow for an upcoming Savannah murder trial.

This case has to do with a driver who led state troopers on a high-speed chase in downtown Savannah. He’s accused of hitting and killing a pedestrian during the chase.

The driver, Kenneth Wright, is charged with felony murder and homicide by vehicle in the death of 56-year-old Stephen Milton. Milton died on June 16, 2021, after he was hit by a driver while crossing Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard near 38th Street.

Police dash camera in the case not only captured the chase, but the crash and the crime scene.

Prosecutors presented the crime scene photos. They are photos the defense argued are too gruesome and could unfairly influence the jury.

Wright is accused of driving close to 100 miles an hour when he hit Milton.

Kenneth Ray Wright
Kenneth Ray Wright(Chatham County Jail)

In court, Wright looked over those crime scene photos with his attorney. WTOC could not see his facial reactions, but he did not turn away as the attorneys and the judge discussed which ones could be shown to jurors in the case.

Chatham County Assistant District Attorney Lyle Burnham said the photos are crucial evidence to the case to prove Wright is the one who hit and killed Milton.

He said at the time of Wright’s arrest, Wright told police he didn’t think he hit the victim and that it was the state trooper chasing him who did.

“The defense should not be able to sanitize the photos under Rule 403 just because they’re not easy to look at,” Burnham said.

“I think this is best decided by the court on the day of the trial,” defense attorney Robert Attridge, Jr. said.

Chatham County Superior Court Judge Benjamin Karpf agreed with the point the defense made. But he said he likely will allow all of the crime scene photos to be shown to the jury.

However, he did have concerns about some of the autopsy photos being duplicates and whether those were could be overly prejudicial.

For now, the photos are under seal until the trial - when the judge said he will make a decision.

Stephen Milton’s oldest sister said before the hearing Thursday that she believes Wright is the one who hit and killed her brother, not the state trooper. And she wants the jury to see the photos.

“Stephen is gone and he is so selfish that they have the intestinal fortitude to say I don’t want those pictures shown. We’ll you don’t get to make that decision, you are the murderer - you are the one that killed Stephen,” Debra Barard, the victim’s sister, said.

Barard also said her family is mentally preparing to go to trial. She said Wright already turned down a plea offer in the case for 20 years in prison.

The family agreed to the deal she said because it meant Wright would be released at age 58 - close to the same age Stephen was when he was killed.

The murder trial is set for Jan 30. We will be there to bring you coverage.

WTOC Investigates has extensively reported on the police chase that killed Milton. It continued for six miles after he was killed.

The high-speed chase went through Savannah neighborhoods. Our investigation found Georgia State Patrol has a pursuit policy that differs from Savannah Police.

Savannah Police require an officer to get supervisor approval, while the state patrol allows the trooper at the scene to decide whether to chase.