The trial of the Regina man accused of hitting and killing an 18-year-old flag worker has finished in Weyburn.
Now it’s in the judge’s hands.
Testimony wrapped up on Friday morning and both the Crown and defense made their closing arguments in the afternoon regarding Keith Dunford, the 47-year-old man charged with criminal negligence causing death and dangerous driving causing death after Ashley Richards was killed three years ago.
After calling four individuals to the stand on the first day of the trial the Crown only had one remaining witness left. Semi driver Gilbert Sabo was at the scene of the crash along Highway 39 in August 2012. In his testimony he agreed the stretch of highway where construction was taking place was well signed. He also recalled seeing a dark truck pass him moments before the incident.
Crown Prosecutors Mitchell Miller and Curtis Wiebe showed the court what could be considered the team’s jewel piece of evidence. A video of Dunford being interviewed by Weyburn RCMP just hours after the fatal crash was played for the courtroom.
Powerful admissions came out of that video. Dunford admitted he struck a flag worker because he wasn’t paying attention behind the wheel. In his British accent, he revealed on the 16 minute video that he was pleased that day, having picked up his approved immigration papers from the US. In fact, he said he had already passed through the construction zone on his way to the border.
But on his way back he wasn’t keeping an eye on his surroundings, claiming he thought the construction zone was further up and didn’t notice any signs.
He passed two semis and shortly after he said his immigration papers fell. He continued on to say he picked them up only to look up and see someone in the middle of the road.
“I don’t know what happened,” Dunford said.
He told the police officer he thought there was a cone and he was sure she stood by it.
“I know I was in the wrong.”
He guessed he was driving between 90 and 100 km/h at the time of the incident.
A surprising detail emerged from the video in that Dunford himself drives professionally for a living for a transport company. He even claimed to have won safety awards in the past.
“It was his duty to pay attention. He chose not to,” said Miller. “He was inattentive when he should have known better.”
The Crown questioned whether it was too much to ask to pay attention for six-and-a-half minutes in the construction zone.
The video does show Dunford being co-operative with police, even drawing a diagram of what happened as he recalled it.
Defense lawyer Aaron Fox argued that it’s impossible to go back and piece the crash scene back together exactly as it was. Testimony revealed some exhibits were never seized as part of the case, including the diagram and pieces of what Ashley was wearing when she was killed. Exactly where Richards was standing when she was hit and the exact speed in which Dunford was travelling could never be definitively proved either Fox stated during his closing remarks.
Dunford never saw the signs, just like two previous witnesses had also testified Fox pointed out. Signs stated that while passing construction workers drivers must go 60 km/h. However, because Dunford believed construction was still further up the road, he believed he was going the speed limit, court heard.
Also, Fox said there’s no law saying a driver can’t pass another vehicle prior to a construction zone. He said the first sign for construction was south of Midale some 13 kilometres away from the actual work zone. In a scenario like that, Fox said drivers have a tendency to let their attention fade if they don’t see construction right away, and will resume their normal speed.
Fox doesn’t deny Dunford may have been careless behind the wheel, but he argued Dunford isn’t criminally responsible.
“It’s obviously a very tragic consequence and what [Judge Krogan] has to decide is whether this case goes beyond negligence or improper driving which occurs from time to time and is serious enough that you’re going to call it a criminal offence,” Fox said outside of the courthouse.
He stated even prudent drivers can be careless, not criminal.
Justice Lana Krogan will make her decision on the case Oct. 13.