Defense attorney says client in fatal crash wasn't driving recklessly

2013-02-05T12:18:00Z 2013-02-05T13:58:48Z Defense attorney says client in fatal crash wasn't driving recklesslyKim Smith Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 05, 2013 12:18 pm  • 

In order for someone to be convicted of manslaughter, prosecutors need to prove the defendant was behaving "recklessly" during the crime. Jeff Rogers believes the state is going to fall short in the Joan Laidlaw case.

Laidlaw, 41, was driving a Chevy Blazer on Oct. 12 when she lost control. The Chevy hit a berm, rolled and landed on Armando Hernandez, who was thrown from the back seat. The 18-year-old died.

Grand jurors were told Laidlaw admitted to investigators she regularly smokes marijuana, she smoked it that day and marijuana and a pipe were found in her purse. They were also told her tongue was green (which is apparently typical for pot smokers.)

Grand jurors were also told tests showed marijuana was in Laidlaw's system.

Rogers believes prosecutor Jennifer Copenhaver-Celi misled jurors into believing Laidlaw was impaired by the marijuana and drove recklessly as a result. He believes the case needs to be taken back to the grand jury.

Rogers wants grand jurors to know the marijuana was found in Laidlaw's urine and that urine shows past use of marijuana, not necessarily current use.

In addition, he wants them to know Laidlaw smoked the marijuana that morning and the crash was at 10 p.m.

Lastly, Rogers wants grand jurors to know that seven law enforcement officers wrote in their reports they did not see any signs Laidlaw was impaired that night.

In order for Laidlaw to be indicted for manslaughter, the state needs to be able to prove the marijuana resulted in her reckless behavior, Rogers said. 

Driving through a stop sign in the pitch black is not reckless behavior in and of itself, Rogers said.

Prosecutor Ashley Bock told Judge Hantman Monday the state presented the evidence "fairly and impartially" and Laidlaw's rights were not violated. 

In a written response to Rogers' motion, Bock said Copenhaver-Celi "in no way implied the improper presumption that if a person has an illegal drug in their body then they are impaired."

And while the deputy misspoke when he told grand jurors the marijuana was in Laidlaw's blood, it doesn't mean the grand jury would've reached a different decision had he testified it was in her urine, Bock said in court documents.

Judge Hantman will issue a ruling at a later date.

 Oh, and by the way, Rogers offered up an explanation Monday for Laidlaw losing control of the Chevy. He says Laidlaw became startled when another passenger in the vehicle suddenly fired a 12-gauge shotgun out the window.

In addition to manslaughter, Laidlaw was indicted on two aggravated assault charges, possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia and two counts of dui.

 

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