A grand jury in New York will not charge NASCAR driver Tony Stewart for the August death of fellow driver Kevin Ward while at a sprint car race in New York state. But the most shocking news is what the district attorney revealed about Ward.
FILE - In this Oct. 29, 2010, file photo, NASCAR driver Tony Stewart sits in his car during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup series auto race at the Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Ala. (AP Photo/Glenn Smith, File)
The decision was announced Wednesday, nearly seven weeks after Stewart's car struck and killed ward at a dirt-track race on Aug. 9 in Canandaigua (can-uhn-DAY'-gwah). District Attorney Michael Tantillo, however, also said Ward was under the influence of marijuana that night "enough to impair judgment."
And he said two videos examined by investigators showed "no aberrational driving by Tony Stewart."
Ward had climbed from his car after it had spun while racing alongside Stewart. The 20-year-old walked down the track, waving his arms in an apparent attempt to confront the three-time NASCAR champion.
The front of Stewart's car appeared to clear Ward, but Ward was struck by the right rear tire. He died of blunt force trauma.
Tantillo could have determined the case on his own but last week said he would take it to a grand jury. Experts said it would have been difficult to prove criminal intent, but the prosecutor asked the grand jury to consider charges of second-degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.
"There were not 12 votes to either charge," he said.
WHAM-TV has more on how the decision was made:
According to Tantillo, two dozen witnesses were interviewed in regard to the deadly crash - including witnesses, race car drivers, track employees and volunteers, two accident reconstruction experts, medical personnel and at least one police officer.
The grand jury considered charges of criminally negligent homicide and manslaughter. A total of 23 citizens comprised the grand jury. Tantillo said the group was in session for two days and reviewed all of the evidence. When it came down to making a decision, the jury debated for less than an hour before coming to their conclusion, according to Tantillo.
You can watch his statement below:
Stewart released a statement shortly after the ruling saying "this has been the toughest and most emotional experience of my life," and adding he respected the decision:
This has been the toughest and most emotional experience of my life, and it will stay with me forever. I’m very grateful for all the support I’ve received and continue to receive.
I respect everything the District Attorney and Sheriff’s Office did to thoroughly investigate this tragic accident. While the process was long and emotionally difficult, it allowed for all the facts of the accident to be identified and known.
While much of the attention has been on me, it’s important to remember a young man lost his life. Kevin Ward Jr.’s family and friends will always be in my thoughts and prayers.
It's not known at this point if Ward's family will file a civil suit.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.