PHILADELPHIA -- Amtrak's engineer was cleared of all charges in connection to a high-speed train derailment that killed eight people and left hundreds more injured in Philadelphia in 2015.
After a little over an hour of deliberations, the jury exonerated Brandon Bostian, 38, of causing a disaster and involuntary murder.
Eight people died and over 200 were injured after the train turned at twice the speed limit, and was subsequently derailled in Philadelphia. Amtrak paid $265 million to victims and their families in civil settlements.
Bostian was described by his lawyer as a train enthusiast who had a perfect record of work until he was distracted from rocks being thrown in the area before the crash. Prosecutors claim that he was recklessly disregarding the safety of his passengers who were travelling from Washington to New York on Tuesday evening. About 10 minutes before the train arrived at Philadelphia's 30th Street station, it was headed north.
Federal safety investigators found that Bostian had lost "situational awareness" while on the track. They thought he was going past an S curve and on a straightaway, when he accelerated from 65 mph up to 106mph. He was actually in the middle S-curve and exceeding the speed limit. Investigators did not find any evidence that he was impaired or using his phone at the time.
Amtrak paid $265 million to settle civil litigation with victims' families and survivors in 2016. This was a new limit established by Congress following the crash. This criminal case has a unique history.
After the National Transportation and Safety Board's findings were released, Philadelphia's top prosecutor decided not to pursue criminal charges. After some families of victims pressed for charges, the state Attorney General's Office took the case to trial.
When the judge announced that an alternate would be appointed, the jury was already beginning to weigh the charges on Friday morning. The jury began deliberations right away.
The jury was required to determine whether Bostian intentionally accelerated, knowing the risks -- which is the threshold for criminal negligence.
Common Pleas Judge Barbara McDermott stated that the juror whose sister was killed Thursday night, came to court Friday to begin deliberations and then asked to be relieved.