Fla. Stop Sign Case Dropped

T A M P A, Fla., May 21, 2001 -- Charges were dropped today against threefriends convicted by a lower court in a deadly accident at anintersection where the stop sign was missing, ending a four-yearstring of appeals.

The Hillsborough County State Attorney's Office said it wouldnot refile charges against the three because of a recent stateappeals court ruling that threw out their conviction and ordered anew trial.

"Given the opinion of the 2nd District Court of Appeal and theevidence and testimony as it now exists, we are convinced we cannotproceed with a new trial," said Pam Bondi, a spokeswoman for theHillsborough County State Attorney's Office.

"Our hearts go out to the families of the innocent young menwho lost their lives."

Thomas Miller, Nissa Baillie and Christopher Cole had beenconvicted of manslaughter in the 1996 deaths of three 18-year-oldmen, who died in a collision with an 8-ton truck. Killed wereRandall White, Kevin Farr and Brian Hernandez.

Appeals Court Paved Freedom Path

The accident occurred at a county intersection that normally hada stop sign. But the night of the accident, the stop sign had beenpulled from the ground and was lying nearby.

Baillie, 25, and Cole and Miller, both 24, admitted they stoletraffic signs in the area, but denied they tampered with the one atthe intersection.

Earlier this year, the appeal court overturned the trio'sconviction, saying the jury was tainted by remarks made bythen-prosecutor Leland Baldwin in the 1997 trial.

Defense attorneys tried to get a new trial for the three, sayingthere were new witnesses who would testify the sign was down daysbefore the crash. They also accused prosecutors of intimidatingwitnesses and failing to pass along information might have helpedtheir case.

All three were sentenced to 15 years in prison by trial JudgeBob Anderson Mitcham, who refused in 1998 to grant them a newtrial.