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.


Upcoming City Council Agendas

Here is the upcoming City Council agenda: I.    Call to Order. II.    Pledge of Allegiance/Invocation (Councilman Anderson). III.    Minute Approval.              IV.    Special Presentation. V.        Ordinances – Final Reading:   ... (click for more)

Shooting Of 15-Year-Old Began As Argument Between Teens

According to police, the Tuesday night shooting of a juvenile on Taylor Street started as an argument between the two young men. Terry Marshell Smith Jr., 19, was arrested the following day. Police said the former Hixson High School student shot the juvenile in the shoulder after their argument and then fled the scene.  According to police, Smith admitted to the shooting. ... (click for more)

Better Plan For Walnut Street Hotel

Mitch Patel and his Vision Hospitality Group have unveiled a revised plan for a hotel on Walnut Street. It is much better than the one proposed two years ago. By having no curb cuts on Walnut Street, it makes that special block near the bridge more inviting and safer for pedestrians. Deliveries would be off Riverfront Parkway and hotel access (valet parking) would be off Aquarium ... (click for more)

Thanks For Making The Southern Brewers Festival A Success

Now that the dust has settled I'd like to thank Chattanooga for supporting the Southern Brewers Festival and making it yet another very successful event.    For those who do not know - the SBF benefits the Chattanooga chapter of Kids on the Block and the Chattanooga Community Kitchen.  As a partner helping the SBF with volunteers, sponsorships and the overall production ... (click for more)

Orr In On Four Touchdowns, Irish Defeat Pioneers, 34-20

Notre Dame’s Kareem Orr, one of the area’s top college prospects, showed his versatility Friday night while leading the Fighting Irish to a 34-20 non-district football victory over East Ridge at Raymond James Field. Orr caught three touchdown passes, threw for one and had 121 yards of offense as the Irish leveled their 2014 record at 1-1. The Irish play at Chattanooga Christian ... (click for more)

Baylor Comeback Swamps Webb, 34-7

Baylor lost a fumble on the third play of the game and the visiting Webb Spartans scored five plays later, but the Red Raiders came storming back to win their second-straight game, 34-7, over the D-II, Class A two-time defending state champions. Quarterback Nick Tiano, who has already committed to Mississippi State, hurled two touchdown passes and scored a third on a sneak from ... (click for more)