Trial of Midnight Rider


On February 20th, 2014, a CSX freight train hit a movie crew filming a scene on live tracks in south Georgia, USA. The second camera assistant, Sarah Jones, was killed. The director of the movie, Randall Miller, was charged with involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass and served a little over a year in the county jail. The photo often accompanying the report on this incident in the press showed a relaxed Miller on the tracks with a metal hospital bed, more than a dozen crew and lots of film equipment. No one in their right mind would set up a scene like that on live tracks; it would be suicide. Was Miller nuts? I decided to take a closer look at the incident. It quickly became clear to me that the whole business was a writhing bucket of snakes. The more evidence and depositions I was exposed to, the more I became convinced that, like pretty much almost everyone else there, Miller had stepped onto those tracks blithely unaware of the danger headed his way. The Trial of Midnight Rider: Railroaded in the Deep South, became my quest to unlock the truth leading up to the accident, and the aftermath. The incident was an emotionally charged one within the U.S. film community. The press said Sarah was popular and attractive. Also, she became the poster girl for greater on-set safety, a wholly worthwhile crusade. It’s likely that I will be accused of selective editing or worse – fake news. And that’s why I’m making available much of the source material for the documentary, over 200 hours of legal deposition as well as the more startling items of evidence that have come to light.

Sift through it all and see where it leads you.

An early draft of this documentary was shown to the FBI. The Bureau subsequently opened an investigation into the wrongful arrest of Miller and various civil rights abuses. I have been informed by multiple sources that an investigation is ongoing. As you probably know because you’ve found your way here, The Trial of Midnight Rider: Railroaded in the Deep South is a three-part documentary series available on Amazon, iTunes and Google Play.


These are the individuals deposed in a variety of civil suits involving Film Allman LLC, the company that shot the movie, and other parties related to the shoot, who are featured in the documentary. To view these depositions unedited and in full, simply click on the individual's photo.

All the items collated here have been called into evidence in various depositions, or through the process of discovery. Click on each pic to expand it.

CSX rejection email: The email sent to Charley Baxter and Tina Kicklighter by CSX's Carla Groleau on the morning of the shoot at the Doctortown Bridge. Note time stamp and the recipients.

CSX recall email: Barely one and a half minutes after sending the rejection email, Carla Groleau sent Baxter and Kicklighter another email recalling the rejection email.

Baxter's text to Kicklighter: On the day before the shoot, Feb 19th, Baxter informs Kicklighter by text that he has no intention of coming to the film set at Rayonier and gives the real reason for his absence - he's behind in his work. In fact, at this time he had only three locations out of 65 locked down.

Baxter's text to 1st AD Schwartz: After the death of Sarah Jones, Location Manager Baxter told law enforcement and the press that he refused to attend the film set on the Rayonier property, a protest that the shoot was to proceed without CSX permission. That is clearly at odds with this text he sent to 1st Assistant Director Hillary Schwartz on February 20th, the day of the shoot. In fact, Schwartz's phone was set to West Coast Pacific time so, while it reads 11.21am, it's actually 2:21pm in Wayne County, GA. That means Schwartz received this text while she was on location at the Doctortown Bridge on the Rayonier property. Keep in mind that Baxter received the CSX permission rejection and recall emails (displayed above) 4 hours earlier.

U.S. Federal Railroad Admin Rules: 2. Excerpt from Federal Railroad Administration Rules clearly state that following a fatal accident, train crews are required to undergo drug and alcohol toxicology tests. Neither CSX Police nor Wayne County law enforcement conducted these mandated tests.

Photo of crew beside the railroad tracks: A still photo from day of the shoot at the trestle bridge. There are substantial numbers of film crew members trackside (approx. 30 persons). If this activity is unexpected, standard CSX procedure is for its train crews to report it. No reports were forthcoming. So did CSX crews expect activity at this site?

Tina Kicklighter's notes: The notes Rayonier's VP of Public Relations Tina Kicklighter made when she first spoke on the phone with Charley Baxter about the possibility of shooting a scene on the trestle bridge on the Rayonier property. Note that she has written "hospital bed on tracks". Shooting on the trestle bridge and placing a hospital bed on the tracks was always the film company's intention. Kicklighter said she briefed Mill General Manager Jack Perrett on the film company's request, using these very notes. Perrett later denied that assertion in his deposition.

Rayonier-CSX-film company emails: An example of one of many emails between CSX, Rayonier and the film company about the proposed shoot on the trestle bridge. Rayonier and CSX knew from the start where the film company intended to shoot - on the Doctortown Trestle Bridge located on the Rayonier property.

Contract between Rayonier and the film company:

Contract between Rayonier and the film company - excerpt: The agreement stated that Tina Kicklighter had to accompany the film company at all times when it was on the Rayonier property. In effect Tina Kicklighter was Rayonier.

Scout to the Doctortown Trestle Bridge: Locations for movies have to be scouted to ensure their suitability prior to shooting. Notes are made, photos taken. This email from Kicklighter to Baxter is for the scout to the trestle bridge on the Rayonier property. Note the subject line, "Train trestle location scout". There is no obfuscation about the film company's desire to shoot on the bridge. Equally, Rayonier seems perfectly fine with it. Also note the email's date, February 6th, the day before the scout and almost two weeks before the fateful shoot.

Photo from the scout day: In her first deposition, Rayonier's VP of Public Relations Tina Kicklighter insisted that she never went out on the bridge at any time. That proved to be a lie when this photo of Kicklighter on the bridge during the film company's location scout turned up. Charley Baxter is second on the left. Miller was in LA at the time and did not attend, relying instead on the relevant experienced crew.

Attorney Alvin Leaphart's Affidavit: Some trolling has focused on whether this case is actually being investigated by the FBI, and while the Affidavits of Attorney's Leaphart and Clark Palmer don't appear in the documentary, I thought it worth including them here. In fact, an early edit of the "Trial of Midnight Rider" documentary was shown to FBI agents in both Savannah and Atlanta, Georgia. The agency's response was to launch an immediate investigation into the "possible wrongful arrest and incarceration of Randall Miller" by law enforcement in Jesup, Georgia. Leaphart, now deceased, was Miller's attorney in Jesup and, indeed, conducted many of the depositions that appear in the film. This Affidavit stating that he was interview by an FBI agent in relation to this case is a legally binding document and can be considered a statement of truth.

Attorney Amanda Clark Palmer's Affidavit: Attorney Amanda Clark Palmer of the Atlanta law firm Garland, Samuel & Loeb, worked extensively as part of the Randall Miller's criminal defense team. This Affidavit confirms that she, too, was interviewed by the FBI.

What was the "murder weapon", the bed or the train?: This is the Affidavit of Cyril Wecht, famed pathologist who is considered the rock star of American pathology and has been involved in almost every celebrated case you can name: the Kennedy assassination, the Manson-Tate murders, the disappearance of JonBenet Ramsey, the case against OJ Simpson, the Whitney Houston/ Bobbie Kristina Brown deaths and so forth. I came into possession of the report on the autopsy of the deceased, Sarah Jones, as well as extensive (and grim) crime scene photos of her body, where it came to rest beside the tracks on the bridge. I forwarded all of this to Dr Wecht and then flew to Pittsburgh to interview him. After reviewing the material, it was Wecht's opinion that the train struck and killed the deceased. This might seem to be the obvious conclusion, but nothing about this case is "obvious". Unsubstantiated claims were made by Jesup law enforcement, and Wayne County Assistant Coroner Ted Mathis (who, if you remember, was also a deputy sheriff and, in addition, worked for Rayonier and, when pressed in his deposition stated, "I'm no expert" on coronial matters), that it was not the train that killed Sarah at all, but the bed that pulled her into the train. (Claims were also made and later denied by Investigator Joe Gardner in the Grand Jury Indictment of Miller that the director forced Sarah to help him move the bed off the tracks.) This is a pretty significant point. Wecht could find no marks on Sarah's body that indicated ANYTHING other than that she was struck directly by the train. In other words, the bed had nothing to do with her death. That takes the focus of responsibly for Sarah's death away from Miller and puts it firmly on the railroad, CSX. But, of course, it's pretty hard to lay the blame of the camera assistant's death at the feet of the railroad. It's so much easier to charge an individual and ensure those charges stick. It's interesting to note that a more recent civil suit brought by the Jones family against CSX found that the railroad company was 35% to blame for Sarah's death and Rayonier 18% (for a total of 53%, the balance divided up between Miller, Charley Baxter and other members of the crew).