Lauren Agee's family felt they got a raw deal in court in Putnam County and that the judge was against them. We don't know about that. But we do know a court of appeals turned the judge's ruling upside down and inside out.
At 20 years old, Lauren Agee was bursting with a love for life and always up for a new adventure. But the 2016 weekend trip to Wake Fest at Center Hill Lake with a group of young people was the last trip of her life.
Lauren's body was found floating in the lake. Despite all kinds of strange circumstances, the DeKalb County Sheriff ruled her death an accident, saying she fell into the lake to her death.
Her mother, Sherry Smith, begged DeKalb County Sheriff Patrick Ray to reopen the investigation and then pleaded with District Attorney Bryant Dunaway to reopen an investigation. Both men refused. So, Smith decided to take legal action against the four young people who were believed to be at the campsite at the time of her daughter's death.
But, her entire investigation was thrown out by a judge from the area, Circuit Court Judge Jonathan Young. He called all the witnesses and testimony ridiculous.
"The court is extremely disappointed with the quality of the testimony in the affidavits provided by the plaintiff in this matter," Young said.
He said the case was "pulled out of thin air." And those are just a few of the judge's comments.
“He just seemed to be so much on their side and protective of them and I don't understand that. I think a judge should rise above the politics of a community,” said Smith.
And sure enough when the Lauren Agee case went to appeal, it was the court of appeals in Nashville that tore apart Judge Young's ruling.
“Abuse of discretion...
Applying incorrect legal standard
Reaching illogical or unreasonable decision
Clearly erroneous assessment of the evidence”
Those are just a few of the highly critical comments from the court of appeals.
The court ruled the Smiths have a clear legal right to sue for wrongful death.
“He threw all the evidence out. He made sure Sherry didn't have a case. It seems to me once again that Sherry is the victim of politics, that once again it's more important to get votes than it is to follow the law and give a ruling based on the law,” said private investigator Sheila Wysocki.
And so now Smith is finally free to pursue the jury trial she has always wanted - Not for money, not to win, just to find out what really happened.
“We are going to find out what happened to Lauren, I have faith that we are going to find out what happened to my baby,” said Smith.