Crown and defense lawyers presented their closing arguments on Thursday as the trial of a woman accused in a fatal 2010 hit-and-run draws to a close.
The accused, a young Pelican Lake woman, is facing three charges in relation to an incident outside Stavros Lounge on Sept. 19, 2010 that led to the death of Prince Albert resident Daniel Carter, 21.
The charges include criminal negligence causing death, dangerous operation of a vehicle causing death and failure to remain at the scene of an accident.
Speaking at the Court of Queen’s Bench, defence counsel Greg Chovin began his remarks by pointing to both the difficulty of the decision faced by Judge R.S. Smith and the relatively complete evidence available to the court.
Smith agreed with that assessment, noting, “In my view, there are no gaps that would impair my analysis.”
For Chovin, the key question was what fault, if any, lay with his client.
“There’s no doubt this was a very tragic situation for everyone,” he said.
But for the defence counsel, the evidence suggested enough reasonable doubt for him to recommend acquittal on all three charges.
Smith agreed with Chovin that the criminal negligence charge was the most serious, while the bar for dangerous operation of a vehicle was set somewhat lower.
A conviction for the former, Smith reminded the court, would require demonstrating that the accused displayed not only wanton and reckless disregard, but also some degree of awareness.
Chovin acknowledged that there was no doubt the accused was behind the wheel of the car involved in the incident outside Stavros Lounge, but pointed to several complicating factors that in his view would recommend acquittal.
The defence attorney noted the poor lighting conditions on the street, pointing to “compelling” photographic evidence from Sgt. Shawn Stubbs. He drew attention to the dark clothing worn by Carter, the fact that the victim had also been drinking and conflicting eyewitness testimony regarding the direction he came from.
Finally, he pointed to the role played by two large trucks parked back-to-back near the entrance of Stavros -- one illegally -- that would have obstructed the view of drivers exiting the parking lot.
Smith responded that poor lighting conditions and an obstructed view could “cut both ways” in this case. Since the veracity of the charges involve asking what a “reasonable” person would do under the circumstances, Smith noted that a reasonable person would be expected to slow down in such conditions.
Chovin, however, pointed to witness testimony and parking lot surveillance footage suggesting that the accused had activated her brakes and turn signal.
Regarding the charge of leaving the scene, Chovin noted that although his client had mentally debated what could have caused the “thud” sound she heard, she did not believe she had hurt anyone.
There’s no doubt this was a very tragic situation for everyone. Greg Chovin
Yet in his own arguments, Crown prosecutor Cam Scott characterized the reaction of the accused as a case of “wilful blindness.”
“She recognizes she hit someone, quite frankly,” he said.
Scott noted that when the victim backed up her car and hit another vehicle, as well as when she heard the “thud,” her first reaction in both cases was to leave the scene.
Contrary to arguments by the defence that the accused heard the sound from the back side of her car, Scott pointed to testimony from other witnesses that Carter was in front of her vehicle when he went down.
He also drew upon testimony from witness Derek Labiuk that the car made a rocking motion, as if it were travelling over a speed bump.
The judge appeared to agree, with Smith noting autopsy photographs and reports that indicated physical trauma one would associate with being run over, rather than slamming into the back or side of a vehicle.
Related to the charge of leaving the scene, Scott stressed that -- despite the accused hearing loud noise from bystanders as she drove away and internally debating whether she could have hit someone -- she did not look in her rearview mirror or turn her head back to investigate.
Following the argument of the Crown and a brief restatement by the defence of its main points, the court adjourned. A verdict is expected from Judge Smith when the court reconvenes on Friday, Sept. 27 at 11 a.m.
Danielle Chamakese, 22, has pled not guilty to three charges.