Despite the death of 27-year-old camera assistant Sarah Jones and the others injured, some of the footage shot that day was later edited into a dream sequence scene, in which the main character chooses not to follow his deceased brother to a premature death.
Miller’s defense attorneys said Miller had the scene edited to help explain, as part of his defense, why they were on the tracks that day.
“It was really done to show us, as his attorneys, what was going on, what was in his mind,” Miller defense attorney Ed Garland told “20/20.” “And we would have shown what he was trying to create in his mind, where his mental focus was. And we said, ’We want to know what was in your head,’ and he said, ‘The best way to show that is show what I was trying to do.’”
Jay Sedrish and Hillary Schwartz also pleaded guilty to with involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass charges and each were sentenced to 10 years probation. As part of the plea deal for Miller, charges against Savin, who had pleaded not guilty, were dropped.
The scene the “Midnight Rider” cast and crew were filming that fateful day was set up on the active train trestle over the Altamaha River at Doctortown, Georgia, and the crew had placed a metal-framed hospital bed on tracks as a prop. Although they were actively filming the scene, it was marked as a pre-production shoot, according to the production schedule obtained by "20/20."
There were no railroad officials or medical help present on set, witnesses told "20/20," nor was the film's location manager, Charley Baxter, there. He hadn't been able to obtain permission from the railroad company to film on the trestle bridge. Baxter emailed the railroad's final refusal to producers the morning of the accident, before filming began.
The owner of the land adjacent to the bridge had allegedly given the production crew permission to be next to the tracks and had also reportedly told them that only two trains would use the track that day.
When the train came, “Midnight Rider” hairstylist Joyce Gilliard said the cast and crew had to run along a narrow pathway toward the oncoming train to get off the trestle. When she realized she couldn't get off the trestle bridge fast enough, Gilliard said she held onto a girder.
"The pressure from the wind from the train was so strong that, holding onto the girder, I wasn't able to. It pulled me off," she said.
The train struck the hospital bed, and in effect, turned it to shrapnel. It smashed into Gilliard's left arm, snapping a bone. Days later when she was recovering in the hospital, Gilliard said Randall Miller paid her a visit.
“He came to my hospital room a couple days after the tragedy happened,” she said. “He didn’t say anything, he just cried. He just cried.”
Miller declined to speak with “20/20.” His publicist provided us with video testimonials to his good character from 16 friends and associates.
"I believe stronger than ever that he went onto that train trestle with the firm belief that it was completely safe, that no trains were going to come," "Midnight Rider" editor Dan O'Brien said in one of the testimonials.
In a statement, Miller said he pleaded guilty in part, “out of respect for the Jones family and to not put them through a difficult trial... I am heartbroken by this. I hope my actions have spared the Jones family more anguish and that the on-set safety measures that were lacking before this terrible tragedy will now take precedence for all in the industry.”
Elizabeth and Richard Jones, the parents of Sarah Jones, announced in November they reached a settlement with several defendants in the wrongful death suit they filed against the film’s producers and corporations who own the railroad tracks where the accident took place.
“We are, as much as I can use the word, ‘satisfied,’ with what came of the case,” Richard Jones said, referring to the “Midnight Rider” filmmakers’ sentencing. “I believe it sends a message, frankly that if you do not respect those that you're in charge of, that you may end up behind bars."
In honor of their daughter, Elizabeth and Richard Jones are also trying to bring awareness to safer film sets with their website, Safety for Sarah.