'Midnight Rider' trial sparks backlash on social media

'Midnight Rider' trial sparks backlash on social media
A photograph of Sarah Jones is placed on a stage at a memorial for the assistant camerawoman at the International Cinematographers Guild on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood last March. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Twitter users erupted with backlash on Monday after "Midnight Rider" director Randall Miller pleaded guilty to charges related to the death of 27-year-old camera assistant Sarah Jones.

Jones, 27, was struck and killed by a freight train in February of last year during filming of the Gregg Allman biopic "Midnight Rider" near Savannah, Ga. Seven other crew members were also injured in the incident.


The social media comments came mostly from people in the industry, many of whom have advocated for better safety on sets in the wake of the accident.

Last year, Jones' friends and family launched a "Slates for Sarah" social media campaign to honor her life and bring attention to the issue. Crew members from across the globe posted comments and pictures of Sarah's name written on film slates on Facebook and Twitter.

Using the hashtags "#slatesforsarah," "#sarahjones" and "#spirtofsarah," Twitter users expressed everything from anger to shock over the news of the trial.

Leesa Dean, a New York-based writer and director, tweeted: "Randall Miller pleads guilty (& only ges 2 yrs). #shamefull #slatesforsarah."

"I was really disappointed with the verdict," she told The Times. "I felt the director really put people at harm. Two years is not very much for something like that. Somebody died, people were hurt ... and he knew it was a possibility when filming on a live track."

Other Twitter users echoed similar thoughts.

"Outraged by the lack of justice happening at #midnightrider trial. #noshotisworthalife #sarahjones," wrote one user.

"NOT NEARLY ENOUGH TIME," wrote another user.

Others, like EK Keratsis, took to social media to remember Jones.

Keratsis tweeted: "#slatesforsarah We've not forgotten you, dear Sarah. You are always on our minds, on sets everywhere, every day."

The Miami based producer called the death "tragic."

"Whether the punishments are just or not, it is Sarah herself who has changed the way crews look at safety and acceptable working conditions," Keratsis told The Times. "Her name remains on every camera slate in Florida as a reminder to all of us that safety is always first."

The slew of reactions are not surprising, said Laurie L. Levenson, a professor at Loyola Law School.

"I think many people see [the verdict] as a slap on the wrist," she said. "I think people in the film industry want a message to be sent out. There are many good law-abiding filmmakers who go through all the trouble to get the permit to get a safe set. It's got to be troubling to them when they have renegades who try to take the shortcut and it costs somebody their life."


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