Jury deliberations underway in attorney’s road rage murder trial

Metro Atlanta attorney Bryan Keith Schmitt listens to testimony during his Fulton County murder trial.

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Metro Atlanta attorney Bryan Keith Schmitt listens to testimony during his Fulton County murder trial.

Bryan Keith Schmitt acted out of anger when he turned his steering wheel to the left and drove into a man he believed threw a golf ball at his Mercedes, a prosecutor told a Fulton County jury Monday.

A defense attorney for the 51-year-old Schmitt said his client never meant to hurt anyone, calling the crash that killed beloved real estate investor Hamid Jahangard completely unintentional.

Jury deliberations began Monday afternoon in the trial of the north Fulton attorney charged with murder in Jahangard’s death three years ago in the driveway of a Sandy Springs home.

Hamid Jahangard

Credit: H.M. Patterson & Son-Arlington Chapel obituary

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Credit: H.M. Patterson & Son-Arlington Chapel obituary

Schmitt, an in-house lawyer for a software development company, was driving home from work July 30, 2019, when he heard something slam into the front of his sedan. He turned around to question Jahangard, who had been bouncing a golf ball at the edge of the driveway and talking on the phone to his brother.

Schmitt said he turned onto the property to speak with Jahangard about what happened, but never meant to hit him. Prosecutors, however, argue he purposely rammed the 60-year-old in a fit of rage, causing the skull fractures that resulted in Jahangard’s death days later.

“It was a violent death. It was a gruesome death,” prosecutor Pat Dutcher told the jury in his closing arguments. “It was a death that left him suffering in the hospital for two days until he was pronounced brain dead.”

Schmitt is charged with murder, two counts of felony murder and two counts of aggravated assault. The jury may consider lesser charges, including reckless driving and homicide by vehicle.

In his closings, defense attorney Don Samuel noted surveillance video of the crash shows Schmitt apply his brakes before colliding with Jahangard. He immediately jumped out of his running car and rendered aid to the injured man.

“Mr. Schmitt did everything he could within seconds,” Samuel said, noting he also instructed a bystander to call 911. “There’s no reason the prosecution should say this is murder or intentional aggravated assault.”

Schmitt, a U.S. Army veteran, took the stand last week in his own defense. He told the jury he wanted to speak with Jahangard and inspect his car, but that he underestimated the turning radius of his Mercedes as he pulled into the driveway.

“I see it in my head every day,” Schmitt said. “It’s a mistake that I have struggled with for three years.”

Metro Atlanta attorney Bryan Keith Schmitt took the stand at his murder trial Thursday, telling a Fulton County jury he never meant to hit Hamid Jahangard with his car.

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

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Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Footage of the fatal wreck was captured on two cameras: a clip from the dashboard of a passing HVAC truck and another from a home’s security camera across the street. The video appeared to show Schmitt turn left across River Valley Road as traffic started backing up behind him. He hit Jahangard as he stood next to three trash bins at the edge of the property.

The two had exchanged words moments earlier when Schmitt doubled back and questioned Jahangard from his car. On the stand last week, Schmitt said he was surprised by how combative Jahangard had been.

“He was very dismissive,” Schmitt said. “We were across two lanes of traffic and he yelled across the road, “get the (expletive) out of here.”

Prosecutors said that’s when Schmitt turned his wheel, stepped on the gas and drove into the father of two.

“He made his decision out of anger,” Dutcher said. “He did that knowing he was not in a position to make the turn. He did that knowing there was an unprotected pedestrian standing in the path of his 4,000-pound Mercedes.”

The defense’s traffic reconstruction expert testified that Schmitt veered to the right before impact and that he only accelerated at about half of his Mercedes’ potential.

“He puts the brakes on. He veers to the right. He’s not accelerating as fast as he could,” Samuel said. “These are all signals this was not intentional.”

He later added, “You gotta be a psychopath to run somebody over in the middle of the afternoon over a dent.”

Dutcher said the decision to hit Jahangard was no accident, focusing on erroneous statements Schmitt gave bystanders and police at the scene.

Schmitt initially told authorities Jahangard threw a trash can in front of his sedan, forcing him to swerve around it. Dutcher said the defendant made up the story on the fly to minimize his involvement.

“This wasn’t a traffic accident,” he said. “This was somebody engaged in a confrontation, who knew exactly where (Jahangard) was, and chose to turn their vehicle in that direction anyway.”

Dutcher slowed down the surveillance footage of the collision for the jury, pausing the video just before impact.

“That’s Mr. Jahangard’s life flashing before his eyes,” the prosecutor told them.

The jury deliberated less than two hours before going home about 6 p.m. Deliberations are set to resume Tuesday at 10 a.m.