Most life-wrenching ordeals don’t include the deaths of two beloved children and injuries to others; nor do they include being accused of homicide by vessel, boating under the influence and other charges in the deaths of two beloved children.
Such was the case decided today by a jury in Hall County Superior Court in Gainesville when verdicts were returned in the case of Paul J. Bennett, who was arrested and charged following a tragic accident on the night of June 18, 2012 on Lake Lanier.
At 5:15 PM on Thursday, November 14, 2013, The Gainesville Times reported that the jury handed down Not Guilty verdicts on the eight counts of homicide by vessel.
The Times also says Mr. Bennett was found Not Guilty of one count of boating under the influence (BUI); however, he was found Guilty on a second count of BUI.
According to The Times, Mr. Bennett was found guilty of two counts of reckless operation of a vessel and violation of duty to render assistance.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution is reporting that a juror was removed on Thursday for allegedly going online to find details about the case.
The judge in the case reportedly asked Mr. Bennett if he would agree to having eleven jurors decide his case, instead of twelve. Mr. Bennett gave his assent.
Mr. Bennett’s boat struck a pontoon boat carrying nine adults and four children, tossing several people into the dark water and killing Jake Prince, 9, and Griffin Prince, 13, whose body was only found after nine days of intensive searches by a combined force of many local agencies.
The trial began on Monday, November 4, 2013, when Mr. Bennett faced a jury of his peers and answered charges that included two counts each of reckless operation of a vessel, boating under the influence, failure to render aid following the accident and the most serious charges: homicide by vessel.
No verdict can undo the damage or return two little boys to their grieving families, but we all hope it will lead to the elusive sense of “closure” that is easier to speak of than attain.
If any good came from this tragic collision, it is the “Jake and Griffin Prince BUI Law” — Senate Bill 136 — passed by the Georgia’s legislature, lowering the legal alcohol limit for boaters in Georgia to 0.08 from 0.1, the same standard for operators of other motor vehicles.