NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Tony Stewart will close out the 2014 race season with a cloud of uncertainty over his head and his race team.
The Ontario County District Attorney’s Office in the state of New York has announced that it will send all the evidence gathered during the investigation into the death of 20-year-old sprint car racer Kevin Ward Jr. to a Grand Jury.
The death of Ward came at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in upstate New York when he was struck by a dirt track car driven by Stewart during a race not related to NASCAR. Last week the Ontario County Sheriff’s Office announced that it had completed the investigation and forwarded its report to the D.A.’s office.
The moving of the case from the DA’s office to a Grand Jury means that the members of that jury would have the say on if any charges could be brought against the NASCAR driver. The process is an ongoing one and Stewart has indicated that he will continue to completely cooperate, according to a statement released Tuesday.
“I respect the time and effort spent by both the Ontario County District Attorney and the Sheriff’s Office in investigating this tragic accident. I look forward to this process being completed and I will continue to provide my full cooperation,” Stewart said in the statement.
What Does a Grand Jury Mean?
According to the DA’s office the timeline for the Grand Jury is a foggy one. The office said it would be in “the near future” which does not really mean anything. In addition a Grand Jury does its work in private so unless a release is made there probably won’t be any real accounting of what goes on behind closed doors.
USA Today reported that the Grand Jury system in New York State operates in order to determine if charges should be brought against a person or not. It is not a system designed to prove guilt or innocence but only to determine if evidence substantiates the need for a trail. The moving of the Stewart-Ward case to a grand jury is a logical one if a District Attorney wants to make sure everything is handled correctly.
According to a handbook provided to USA Today by New York's court system, the grand jury is designed to uphold laws "by indicting those individuals believed to have committed crimes and to protect the rights of others against unfounded accusations."
Since the death of Ward
Following an on track incident Ward’s car hit the wall. The young driver exited his car and started walking across the track while cars were still driving by. He was apparently making an effort to confront Stewart as he drove past but instead was killed by Stewart’s car.
Since then several dirt tracks and racing sanctioning bodies have beefed up the rules on when a driver should exit a car following a wreck. NASCAR also made its guidelines known to drivers on the importance of safety following a wreck as well.