Indictment reveals driver had synthetic cannabinoid in system when he struck, killed two motorcyclists

James Devault’s attorney questions charges in state’s case

Indictment reveals driver had synthetic cannabinoid in his system when he struck, killed two motorcyclists

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A newly-released grand jury indictment from Madison County gives insight into the investigation law enforcement officers have been working for nearly 15 months, detailing the charges against the man responsible for striking and killing two motorcyclists on a Madison highway.

The grand jury returned two counts of culpable negligence manslaughter and one count of driving under the influence for James Devault, taken into earlier this week by Madison County deputies.

His lawyer, Kevin Camp, said both charges are difficult to prove.

In May, 3 On Your Side obtained the incident report from Madison police that detailed the moments before and after the deadly crash.

“[Devault] looked down to grab his phone to call his dad, then stated he heard a loud boom,” the report states.

Camp said to his knowledge, Devault told them he had dropped his phone and was reaching for it when he swerved.

“When you start saying culpable negligence for reaching for a phone, that opens up a whole other can of worms for any accident that ever happened," Camp said.

Legally, culpable negligence means a wanton disregard for human life.

Camp said it would be a stretch to prove that just because someone’s reaching for a phone.

However, if that same person was impaired, it strengthens the culpable negligence claim, he said.

The state claims Devault was under the influence of a Schedule I substance known as five-fluoro cumyl-pinaca, a synthetic cannabinoid similar to K2 or spice.

Unlike alcohol, which has a legal limit to determine impairment, this substance does not.

Camp said that also poses a challenge, considering the state will try to prove Devault was impaired.

“You can look at whatever’s found in the blood and know whether or not the person’s under the influence at that time,” Camp said. "Having a small amount of something in your system, it can be a residual effect of smoking hours or even days before.”

Camp said they’re waiting on an judge to set bond for Devault.

He plans to file motions for discovery to see what Madison police and other law enforcement authorities have uncovered during their investigation.

Bubba Bramlett, the district attorney for Madison and Rankin counties, did not return requests for comment on this story.

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