KANSAS CITY, KS (KCTV) -- Prosecutors in the Schlitterbahn case have a big decision to make tonight: will they re-file charges against three park officials where a 10-year-old died on a waterslide?
Defense lawyers say they expect to be back in court, but will new charges bring a new result?
The evidence outraged so many people, but according to one expert it doesn't necessarily prove a crime.
The gruesome death in 2016 brought national attention.
Numerous others were hurt on the ride in the months before the son of someone who was then a state representative was killed on the waterslide touted as the world’s tallest.
The Kansas Attorney General went before a grand jury and got an indictment for reckless second-degree murder against the ride’s designer and the park’s co-owner, and for manslaughter against the park’s operations manager at the time.
Former Kansas Attorney General Paul Morrison said that, based on the evidence made public, he likely would not have pursued such charges.
“Bad things happen,” he said. “It doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s a crime involved.”
When asked what he would have charged, he said, “Maybe nothing. At the most, perhaps involuntary manslaughter. Although, frankly, with the facts of this case, that’s probably even a tall order.”
When asked if there is some sort of lesser crime when someone’s hurt as a result of negligence, he said to think about if someone slips and falls after you don’t shovel your sidewalk.
“Should you be charged with aggravated battery for your negligence?” he said. “I would think not. Should you be accountable to money damages should that person decide to sue you in a civil course of action for negligence? Probably. That’s the difference.”
A lawsuit did happen, resulting in a large monetary judgement.
The criminal trial judge said the prosecution misled the grand jury with a Travel Channel portrayal of the death, because it was dramatized for entertainment and not a factual depiction of the ride’s design and construction. That’s just one reason he threw out the indictment.
He also faulted the use of an expert witness who he said gave inaccurate information about state ride regulations and what he called irrelevant, prejudicial testimony about a man who died years ago on a Schlitterbahn ride in Texas.
Because the criminal case was thrown out before going to trial, it could be pursued again. However, Morrison said it might be time to let go.
“There are a lot of people out there who think every time some tragedy occurs, somebody has to be held criminally accountable, somebody’s got to go to jail, we’ve got to string somebody up for this,” he said. “I think part of being a good prosecutor is being able to say, sometimes you have to say ‘no.’”
Attorney General Derek Schmidt issued a statement saying he respectfully disagrees with the judge’s ruling and that he will be taking “a fresh look at the evidence… to determine the best course forward.”