Garrett Anderson may have been careless, a deadbeat, a Walmart shopper. But did he deserve to be convicted of vehicular homicide and get 15 years, five more than the actual killer?
Anderson of Kennesaw called a locksmith after locking his keys in his car at a Cobb Walmart on May 25, 2014, according to investigators. Anderson told the locksmith, Tansu Kanlica, to follow him to an ATM so he could get the $175 he owed. But then Anderson appeared to try to get away without paying, according to prosecutors, and passed his bank and several ATMs.
During Anderson’s trial, Kanlica testified that Anderson “brake checked” him, and that he swerved left to avoid hitting him, then over-corrected to the right. That’s when Kanlica jumped a curb and struck three teenagers, killing two.
Neither driver stopped. Kanlica had no excuse. Anderson’s excuse was that he didn’t know it happened. After all, he didn’t kill anyone.
“The bottom line was: Nobody could say that Garrett Anderson was even present at the time of the accident that killed these two little girls and injured the third,” Petrey said.
But a jury convicted Anderson of two counts of vehicular homicide, one count of serious injury and one count of aggressive driving. Anderson was 25 when he was sentenced in 2015 to serve 15 years.
With a new attorney, Anderson is trying to have his conviction reversed due to ineffective assistance of counsel. The basis for this contention is unclear, other than the fact that he lost, and the article offers no clue what Anderson’s lawyers did, or failed to do, that gives rise to the hearing. Unlike so many such cases, he had lawyers who had the experience to defend their client.
Anderson’s previous legal team? Two lawyers with a combined 70 years of experience, including former DeKalb County District Attorney J. Tom Morgan and former DeKalb assistant DA John Petrey. Morgan testified Tuesday that his defense, while representing Anderson, was that he was not at fault for the fatal wreck.
There was no claim that it was Anderson whose vehicle struck the teens. The fault arises from the testimony of Kanlica, the locksmith who was certain that he was about to get beat for $175 and wasn’t about to let Anderson get away, who testified that Anderson “brake checked” him. Presumably, this means Kanlica was tailgating Anderson, who hit his brakes to get Kanlica to back off, causing Kanlica to turn away. The chain of events ended with Kanlica running down the teens.
The question isn’t whether Kanlica’s claim smacks of self-serving malarkey, particularly since it served to get his sentence reduced to ten years in exchange for his testifying against Anderson. That was a question for the jury, whether they believed Kanlica. And apparently, they did.
But even so, could Anderson’s “brake check” be construed to create a reasonably foreseeable chain reaction that would result in death? Was Kanlica’s tailgating not the more proximate cause of his sudden need to turn to avoid crashing into Anderson’s vehicle?
On the other hand, Anderson is no angel here, having enjoyed the benefit of Kanlica’s lock-smithing skills and then, Walmart shopper that he is, trying to beat the guy who just helped him out of his fee. As a side note, going to trial as an unsympathetic defendant can give rise to credibility issues.
And yet, with all the ugliness that happened here, the upshot is that Kanlica, who actually ran down and killed the teens, ends up with five fewer years than Anderson, who ran over no one. Even if sufficient fault can be attributed to Anderson to be convicted of the homicides, is his culpability greater than that of Kanlica?
The gravamen of the hearing isn’t philosophical, but whether Anderson was denied effective assistance of counsel, the one piece of information wholly omitted from the article. There must be enough to the claim to give rise to a hearing, not to mention a courtroom filled with people wearing “Anderson Strong” t-shirts, but as weird as this case may be, what the basis for the claim may be is a mystery. Losing a close case isn’t lawyer error. It’s a trial.