First witnesses recount horror of deputy injuries|[11/29/05]

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Testimony in the long-awaited trial of a man accused of careening around a funeral procession and smashing his sedan into a deputy sheriff began Monday with a minister in the procession saying the need for prayer was immediately evident.

Deputy Mike Hollingsworth was left face-down on U.S. 80 with blood coming from his face and mouth.

&#8220We were afraid to move him and we were praying,” said the Rev. Michael Fields, senior pastor of Triumph Church, who was in the procession moving the short distance between the exit of Glenwood Funeral Home and the entrance to Green Acres Memorial Park on Feb. 9, 2004.

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Hollingsworth had angled his patrol vehicle in the highway to block traffic and was standing at parade rest at the cemetery entrance.

On trial for aggravated-driving-under-the-influence is Ronald Vaughn, 25, who already had a police record before being taken into custody at the scene.

Jurors hearing the case in Warren County Circuit Court before Judge Isadore Patrick were empaneled sooner than had been expected, and Fields and a physician who treated Hollingsworth were among the state’s initial witnesses.

Assistant District Attorney Mike Bonner, prosecuting the case, said Vaughn’s vehicle was moving &#8220at a high rate of speed” and &#8220knocked (Hollingsworth) in the air over a pickup truck that was driven by Chris DeRossette.”

Fields testified he saw the Oldsmobile Cutlass pass on the left of the procession and he could hear the car’s wheels spinning on the pavement. He also saw it go into a ditch afterward.

Vaughn exited the car and walked up to road level, Bonner said.

&#8220When he saw what he had done, he passed out,” Bonner said.

Vaughn was taken by a Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol trooper to River Region Medical Center, but was released and has been in jail since because when he was arrested he was on probation on a conviction for shooting into a dwelling. In May 2004 Vaughn agreed to having that probation revoked and admitted that he was driving under the influence of an illicit drug the day Hollingsworth was struck.

Hollingsworth was the focus of a widespread community response as he slowly recovered from a brain injury. He remained about six weeks in Jackson hospitals. His doctor during his rehabilitation, Dr. Stuart Yablon of Jackson, said Hollingsworth had &#8220a remarkable recovery.”

Hollingsworth was returned to limited duty at the sheriff’s department in September 2004 and has had limitations removed as his health has improved.

Yablon said most recovery from such injuries happens in the first 1 1/2 to 2 years following such an injury. Hollingsworth has progressed faster than he expected but he remains at higher risk than before his injury of, most notably, having a seizure, Yablon added.

In response to a question from Bonner, Yablon agreed that Hollingsworth sustained a &#8220serious, permanent injury to the brain.”

Bonner said a blood sample was taken from Vaughn following the wreck and that it had been analyzed by a national laboratory. A doctor from that laboratory was to testify this afternoon, he added.

Vaughn’s attorney, Eugene Perrier of Vicksburg, deferred his option to make an opening statement until after the prosecution rests its case.

Perrier began to represent Vaughn after the suspect’s first attorney, Chokwe Lumumba of Jackson, was suspended from practice this year by the Mississippi Supreme Court, delaying the trial.

Aggravated DUI carries a maximum prison sentence of 25 years.