Crown challenges driver in fatal accident trial
It will be more than a week before both sides will give their closing submissions in the case of a Coldstream man accused of dangerous driving causing death.
Instead of giving closing arguments today in the case of Chase Donaldson, as originally scheduled, Donaldson’s lawyer Glenn Verdurmen asked for a break until Monday to go over three days of gruelling cross-examination of his client by Crown lawyer Iain Currie.
Judge Frank Cole said closing arguments would be heard on Monday, Dec. 10, in Vernon Supreme Court at 3 p.m.
Donaldson, 29, is charged with dangerous driving causing death and failing to remain at the scene of an accident causing bodily harm in connection with the death of Kiera-Leigh Carlson, 22, on April 30, 2010.
Carlson was struck by a vehicle driven by Donaldson as she walked to work along Aberdeen Road sometime between 8:30 and 9 p.m. Her body was not discovered until the following morning near the offices of the Regional District of North Okanagan.
After Donaldson was put on the stand by his defence team – which also includes Paul Danyliu – on Tuesday, Crown lawyer Iain Currie was relentless in his cross exam of Donaldson’s testimony, which wrapped up Thursday morning.
Currie had Donaldson confused on the stand over answers he was giving, and revealed Donaldson had given different answers to his repeated questions.
He finished Thursday by attacking Donaldson’s reaction to seeing oncoming headlights in his lane as he rounded a right-hand curve on Aberdeen Road, going at least 75 km/h, before the final straight stretch ahead of the traffic light at the intersection with Highway 6.
Donaldson said he took his foot off the brake, never pressed down on the brake pedal, steered left as he was going northbound on Aberdeen Road and accelerated into the pedestrian’s path to avoid the lights of an oncoming southbound vehicle he believed was either in his lane or coming at him.
“If I didn’t do that, I believe I would have been in a head-on collision,” said Donaldson. “I believed there would have been a head-on collision and I wanted to get out of my lane.”
“Why didn’t you gear down?” asked Currie.
“It was a split-second decision,” said Donaldson.
Currie argued that a normal reaction to such a situation would have been to apply the brake. Donaldson said he couldn’t agree with Currie’s assertion.
“You have never before accelerated into a hazard, have you?” questioned Currie.
“I never before believed I would be in a head-on collision,” said Donaldson.
“Have you ever accelerated when you see a child’s ball appear between two cars, when you see a pedestrian or a bicycle?
“No,” said Donaldson.
“So, in this case, you took the time to consider your options, pull back your foot from starting the process of braking, and accelerated,” said Currie.
“Yes,” answered Donaldson.
“If this wasn’t a desperate case to escape the consequences of your actions that night, you’d realize how ridiculous that sounds,” said Currie.
“No,” replied Donaldson, who came close to breaking down under Currie’s heated questions Wednesday afternoon.
Fighting back tears in response to Currie’s questions about how he could not see Carlson’s body laying on the boulders near the regional district office after testifying he went back three times to see what he had hit, Donaldson paused.
“Would you like to take a break?” Currie asked, as did Cole.
“No,” said Donaldson, who had stated he had returned to his home to get a flashlight and went back to Aberdeen Road certain he had hit “something.”
He testified he shone the flashlight in the direction he thought the object went after it “flew over his car,” and that he shone his light over the grass beside the shoulder of Aberdeen Road.
Donaldson said he never looked in the direction where Carlson’s body was discovered.
“I’m suggesting, sir, if you had looked over the rocks with the flashlight, you would have seen Kiera-Leigh Carlson,” said Currie.
“I can’t say,” answered Donaldson.
“I strongly suggest that given her visibility and the fact you were looking for a person, because you said you thought you hit someone, you would have had to see Kiera-Leigh Carlson,” said Currie.
“No,” answered Donaldson.
Due to scheduling matters, defence called Okanagan College president Jim Hamilton as a character witness in the midst of Donaldson’s testimony.
Hamilton said he has known Donaldson since he was a Grade 2 student friend and a contemporary of Hamilton’s son.
Asked by Danyliu about Donaldson’s reputation in the community, Hamilton said that “within the circle of friends, Donaldson had proved to be a person of good character.”