OPP cop in Natsis drunk driving probe 'biased': Judge
Two years on, the deadly drunk driving trial of Pembroke dentist Dr. Christy Natsis is finally nearing completion.
Judge Neil Kozloff will give his decision on the mammoth impaired trial on May 29, 2015 more than 2 1/2 years since Natsis, 50, sat through day one of the seemingly interminable proceeding.
She is accused of impaired and dangerous driving, both causing death, after Bryan Casey died in a March 31, 2011 collision on Hwy. 17 near Arnprior.
She had also been charged with driving with a blood-alcohol level over 80 causing death — she was 2 1/2 times the legal limit when the crash took place — but OPP bungling caused Kozloff to throw out the breath samples in March 2013.
On Monday, Kozloff gave his decision on defence lawyer Michael Edelson's allegations that an officer tendered as Crown collisions expert was biased and incompetent.
Kozloff tossed chunks of Const. Shawn Kelly's evidence, finding that he was indeed biased and that he'd dropped from his final report witness statements favourable to the defence.
“I do not believe or even suspect that Kelly did so out of any malice,” Kozloff said. “He simply did not know any better.”
Natsis, for instance, told a friend who came across the crash scene that “the other car crossed into my lane,” but Kelly omitted that from his report.
“That utterance was highly relevant to the area of impact issue, which is one of the central issues — if not the pivotal issue — on causation in this case,” Kozloff said.
Kelly also failed to include a statement from a waitress at a Kanata pub who said that she didn't think Natsis was drunk before she drove off.
Email exchanges between Kelly and other officers showed he horned in on the investigative side of the case, rather than maintaining professional distance.
“As an expert witness, there is the expectation that he at all times be independent, unbiased and impartial,” Kozloff said. “Kelly cannot be seen to be, or conduct himself as, just another member of the investigative team.”
Kelly's emails regularly refer to the “high profile” nature of the case and in one message he praises police for doing an “excellent job ensuring that she spoke to a lawyer” — an unfortunate comment in retrospect because police breaches of Natsis' right to counsel led to her blood-alcohol readings being tossed.
Kozloff also found a “lack of competence and/or care” on Kelly's part, for instance his misidentification of faded painted road lines as tire marks.
Counsel for both sides will file written submissions ahead of Kozloff's May decision.