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Date set for Christy Natsis's appeal for drunk driving causing death conviction

By Joanne Laucius

RYAN PAULSEN/DAILY OBSERVER
Dr. Christy Natsis waits outside the Pembroke courthouse in this October, 2015 photo.

RYAN PAULSEN/DAILY OBSERVER Dr. Christy Natsis waits outside the Pembroke courthouse in this October, 2015 photo.

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The Ontario Court of Appeal has set aside Nov. 14 to hear the appeal of Pembroke dentist Christy Natsis, who was convicted more than two years ago of impaired and dangerous driving causing death.

Natsis was sentenced in November 2015 to five years in prison for causing the death of Bryan Casey in a March 31, 2011 head-on crash on Highway 17 near Arnprior. Natsis was released on bail a few weeks later pending the legal challenges.

Her first trial took 55 days over three years.

In convicting Natsis, Ontario Court Justice Neil Kozloff relied on eyewitness evidence that drew a picture of an intoxicated and unsteady Natsis leaving a Kanata bar following two glasses of wine, backing her SUV into a parked car, and later swerving over the highway at high speeds

Kozloff said he accepted witness evidence that she nearly hit a concrete wall during the 24-minute drive that ended when her westbound Ford Expedition crossed the highway centre line and collided with Casey's eastbound Dodge pickup. Both drivers had blood-alcohol levels over the legal limit.

But breath readings that showed Natsis had a blood-alcohol level 2 ½ times the legal limit weren't admitted into evidence because the OPP violated her rights to speak to her lawyer.

Natsis is asking the court of appeal, which had originally scheduled two days to hear the matter in Toronto, to quash her convictions and either find her not guilty or order a new trial.

The appeal alleges errors were made by the trial judge regarding the admission and reliability of the expert evidence of the OPP officers who investigated the collision. It also alleges that the trial judge's reasons for finding Natsis guilty were "legally insufficient" given they "entirely fail to engage" with her defence lawyers' 100-page attack on the technical and expert evidence of the investigating officers.

Natsis will be represented in the appeal by lawyer Matthew Gourlay and Marie Henein, the Toronto lawyer who defended former CBC host Jian Ghomeshi on sexual assault charges.