Sadness in the South: Mississippi crash spurs anger, activism

Jan Morgan

A story from Mississippi deserves everyone’s attention.

One month ago, a motor vehicle operator struck 57 year old Jan Morgan from behind as she pedaled her bike on a road south of Tupelo, Mississippi. According to the police dispatch log, Morgan was thrown up onto the windshield and then catapulted onto the ground after the driver realized what had happened.

Then, after the initial contact, the police log reads, “The driver exited the vehicle and observed the cyclist while talking on the phone. Then re-entered her vehicle and ran the cyclist over again before being forced from her vehicle by witnesses.”

Morgan sustained multiple fractures, significant head injuries, collapsed lungs and road rash over most of her body. She spent four weeks in the ICU and is just now beginning her recovery.

“…my wife’s life is only worth $500 or 6 months… If you happen to be run down by a car, it appears to me that Mississippi law says you are no different than road kill.”
— David Morgan

Morgan is a well-known bike shop owner from Starkville Mississippi. She owns the shop with her husband David.

As if the tragedy of the crash wasn’t enough, David is now struggling to comprehend how the Mississippi legal system has failed him. Writing on his “Get Well Jan” blog yesterday, David posted that the driver of the car will only face misdemeanor charges:

I was informed today that there is nothing in Mississippi law that allows for felony charges against the woman that ran over my wife with her automobile… I was also told there is no Mississippi law that allows felony charges for the woman getting back in her car and running over her again while she lay there on the ground severely traumatized…

The District Attorney tells me if anyone can produce written Mississippi law that would apply to this he would certainly use it, but his hands are otherwise tied…

According to the Sun Herald newspaper, DA Allgood says there was no felony because, “the motorist didn’t leave the scene, wasn’t impaired, and didn’t intentionally or negligently hit Morgan.” (Note that witnesses had to surround the driver and reportedly “dragged her” from her car to prevent her from fleeing.) The only state law that applies is Mississippi’s 3-foot passing law, which is a misdemeanor.

David Morgan suspects the woman that struck his wife was on the phone when the collision occurred, but Mississippi law prevents looking at cell phone records in this case because using one while driving is not against the law.

Adding insult to injury is that some local residents feel that people like Jan Morgan shouldn’t even be on the road at all.

Friends of the Morgans now hope to get more national attention on this story. Yesterday a post was made on Reddit looking for anyone with connections to national TV networks.

Morgan is understandably frustrated and angry at the legal situation. “I used to tell people all over the world that Mississippi was a good place to live…” he writes on his blog, “I no longer have any confidence in the judicial system of this state.”

“By Mississippi law,” he continues, “my wife’s life is only worth $500 or 6 months. So much for being an educated, productive, tax paying citizen in this state. Be careful out there. If you happen to be run down by a car, it appears to me that Mississippi law says you are no different than road kill.”

In an update just posted by Morgan, a Mississippi state legislator is drafting an amendment to the 3-foot passing law. “The most important thing every one must do now is flood/call their own representative and tell them to support this bill.”

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