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Former Astronaut may enter a plea tomorrow in Tuscaloosa County traffic fatalities

Former NASA Astronaut James Halsell

The end may be coming for a Tuscaloosa murder case involving a five-time Space Shuttle Astronaut. Veteran Space Shuttle Commander James Halsell is expected to enter a plea tomorrow. He’s charged with murder in the traffic deaths of sisters eleven year old Niomi James and thirteen year old Jayla Parler in 2016. Halsell’s defense team blamed the accident on sleeping medication. Last summer, APR spoke with Judge John Carroll of the Samford University Law School. Back then, he said Halsell’s history as an astronaut probably wouldn’t make a difference at trial.

“Where an astronaut background would is where the evidence could go either way,” said Judge Carroll. “If it’s a slam dunk for an acquittal or a slam dunk for a conviction, whether or not he’s an astronaut is probably not going to have any impact at all.”

Halsell’s experience at NASA included three sciences missions in orbit aboard Space Shuttle Columbia in 1994 and 1997, a docking mission to the Russian Space Station MIR in 1995, and a visit to the International Space Station in the year 2000. When APR spoke with Judge Carroll lasty summer, he believed that the ages of the victims in Halsell’s case could make going to trial difficult for the astronaut.

“You have children in this case, which makes it significantly different then a lot of other cases,” said Judge Carroll. “We are all sympathetic and care deeply when children are involved in a matter like this.”

Click below for APR’s story on another high profile court case involving a NASA astronaut. One time Space Shuttle crewmember Lisa Nowak. She was the first active duty astronaut charged with a felony. Nowak faced the possibility of life in prison for attempted kidnapping with intent to inflict bodily harm, battery and burglary of a vehicle using a weapon. She received probation for pleading to a lesser charge.

Pat Duggins is news director for Alabama Public Radio.
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