The trial for the man charged in connection with the alleged drunk driving deaths of two Beaumont youth and a Leduc County youth is underway more than two years after their deaths.
Beaumont triple-fatal drunk driving crash trial commences
May 2, 2014 by Leave a Comment
Jonathan Pratt pleaded not guilty to all nine charges.
Pratt is charged with three counts each of impaired driving causing death, driving with a blood-alcohol content over .08 causing death and manslaughter.
Bradley Arsenault, 18, Thaddeus Lake, 22 and Kole Novak, 18 were killed on Highway 625 on Nov. 26, 2011 when the car they were driving was allegedly struck by the one Pratt was driving.
Pratt is said to have admitted to driving the pickup truck and is accused of being impaired at the time.
The first day of the trial was taken up by Pratt’s lawyer, Timothy Dunlop, attempting to have all charges stayed against his client because he argued a loss of important evidence detracted from the ability to determine if it truly was his client who was driving the truck at the time of the incident.
Dunlop suggested the Crown intentionally dragged their feet in providing recordings between police at the scene and the dispatch centre until after the RCMP destroyed the telephone records. It is RCMP policy to destroy telephone records after two years. The Crown said the defence did not do their due diligence in following up for the records.
The judge dismissed Dunlop’s application for the charges to be stayed and said he believed the recordings were not delivered in time due to a genuine miscommunication.
On the second day of the trial, Dunlop continued with constitutional arguments, this time questioning whether police had fair and reasonable grounds to take a sample of Pratt’s blood from the University of Alberta hospital.
The court heard that an Emergency Medical Response attendant told the RCMP the accused smelled of alcohol, and that Pratt admitted to the attendant that he was driving the vehicle. But Dunlop said this is still not enough to prove who was actually driving the vehicle at the time of the incident.
The trial was adjourned on Wednesday because the defence lawyer called in sick. The result of Dunlop’s second constitutional challenge was not known by the time of publication.
Bradley’s mother, Sheri Arsenault, was in attendance for the first day of the trial.
She said moments such as when she heard the dispatch call from police shortly after the incident that killed her son have been surreal.
“It’s so unbelievably hard … it just brings back all the sadness surrounding it,” she said.
Arsenault has waited two and a half years for the trial to begin and it hasn’t gotten any easier for her. She said she believes the defence is “grasping at straws”.
“When you witness what you witnessed in court, for something that’s so black and white to us, it’s a feeling like you just can’t believe it,” she said. “You’re just in shock.”
In particular, she said it was extremely difficult for her to hear that Pratt was pleading not guilty to all nine charges.
She was also frustrated to hear the defence try and use a constitutional challenge to get the case thrown out.
“I’ve learned things I should have never had to learn about our justice system,” she said. “It’s like there’s no mention of the three boys who died … It’s all about the investigation.”
She was surprised to actually find herself relieved when she heard the Wednesday trial date was adjourned.
“At first we were upset that it was put off today, but this morning when I didn’t have to go to the Wetaskiwin courthouse, even though it’s only day three, it felt good,” she said. “It’s very draining.”
Arsenault said her gut feeling is that a guilty plea will come from Pratt if the constitutional challenges fail. Dunlop said his client could still change his plea.
The trial is expected to last five weeks and Arsenault said she and families of the other deceased men plan on attending each day.
It’s a challenge, both from a personal and financial standpoint because they can’t work during the five weeks and don’t plan on eating out at restaurants every day.
“It’s a real hardship on all of us, never mind the heartache part,” Arsenault said. “And all this from the ripple that one man caused, allegedly.”
The trial continues today.