Medical Examiner Changes Testimony After Viewing Video Of Hennen, Barnes Railroad Deaths 30-40 Times

Friday, January 24, 2014

Hamilton County's chief medical examiner changed his testimony about what he saw on a video of a train hitting Michael Hennen and Hannah Barnes after he said he viewed it 30-40 times in the office of an attorney suing Hennen's Restaurant.

Dr. James Metcalfe initially said that in the video the 19-year-old Ms. Barnes could be seen on the tracks "embracing her male friend." He said he first viewed it with law enforcement personnel investigating the deaths.

He added, "They did not make any effort to move. They were apparently asleep."

But Dr. Metcalfe testified Friday in the courtroom of Circuit Court Judge Neil Thomas that he had a different perspective after a minute examination of the video several days ago in the office of attorney John Mark Griffin.

He told the jury, "It appeared to me they were face down lying side by side. One head was at one end and the other head at the other end."

Dr. Metcalfe said Ms. Barnes was closest to the train as it approached at a crossing at McDonald Farm at Sale Creek on the early morning of Aug. 22, 2011.

He said she "rose up somewhat - her head and her feet." He said Michael "also lifted his head some."

Attorney Griffin asked, "Would those victims have been able to appreciate what was happening?" Dr. Metcalfe answered, "Yes."

The plaintiff attorneys said they plan to show the railroad video to the jury. 

Lisa Barnes, mother of Hannah Barnes, is seeking a $25 million verdict against Hennen's Restaurant. The trial resumes Tuesday with the plaintiff's side still putting on proof.

Dr. Metcalfe also said he believes a .07 blood alcohol level for Hannah Barnes is accurate. He said he drew blood from her heart for the test. That is just below the .08 drunk level. The lawsuit contends that the underage Ms. Barnes was provided alcohol at Hennen's prior to going to the farm.

The medical examiner said he was paid to provide testimony for the plaintiff. He said that is allowed under his county contract. 

Lisa Barnes left the courtroom during the medical examiner's testimony.

Another sister of Lisa Barnes testified for the Hennens. Donna Kimball of Fairview, Tn., said she saw Hannah drinking beer at the time of the third wedding of Lisa Barnes in August 2008. Hannah was then 16.

A photo was introduced that she said showed Hannah and her sister, Teal Orr, holding beers.

The plaintiff called brothers of Hannah, David Barnes and Ryan Orr.

Both described Hannah as full of life, energetic and outdoorsy.

Mr. Orr said, "You never had a bad day when she was around. She was the spark for everybody." He said he keeps her class ring with him.

Mr. Barnes said, "She was always there for me. She is the only person I really trusted." He described her as "beautiful, hyper sometimes, goofy, graceful."

The defense did not question either brother, saying, "We are very sorry for your loss."

Tracy Miller, a sound and video specialist, said he inspected the video system at Hennen's Restaurant several days after the tragic incident.

He said by that time there was no data for Aug. 21 or Aug. 22. He said it had apparently already been taped over. Some restaurant employees said they watched a tape showing Michael in the bar area with a Styrofoam cup and Hannah at the end of the bar hours before their deaths.

Mr. Miller said, "I could not see data for the 21st or the 22nd. Because I could not go back to the dates, it was a good indication it had been overridden." 

Dr. Bruce Hutchinson, UTC economics professor, gave the value of future earnings for Hannah is she had been able to go on to become a medical sonographer as $1,530,605.


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