Defence lawyer tells Natsis appeal that OPP expert witness was biased
RYAN PAULSEN/DAILY OBSERVER Dr. Christy Natsis waits outside the Pembroke courthouse in this October, 2015 photo.
TORONTO - An OPP constable’s testimony at the trial of a Pembroke dentist convicted of impaired driving causing death was “biased” and should have been excluded, the Ontario Court of Appeal heard Tuesday.
Christy Natsis was sentenced in 2015 — after a 55-day trial that spanned more than three years — to five years in prison, four years after her vehicle crossed the centre line of Highway 17 near Arnprior and crashed into an oncoming pickup truck, killing Bryan Casey, a 50-year-old father of three.
Both Natsis and Casey had been drinking, but the trial heard that Casey started to brake before the crash while Natsis did not. The court found Natsis at fault.
The dentist was represented in the appeal court by high profile Toronto defence lawyer Marie Henein, who argued the trial judge made mistakes, allowing some testimony by OPP collision experts at the scene, specifically from Const. Shawn Kelly.
Henein said Kelly viewed himself as “part of the team” for the Crown.
“The lack of objectively is concerning ... he can’t be relied on,” Henein insisted. She argued that Kelly also gave testimony that was beyond his expertise.
Henein said Kelly offered differing possibilities for the cause of the crash but told the court it could rely on his version of what happened.
“In his own evidence he said he wasn’t 100 per cent sure,” Henein said.
The appeal court also heard that police collision experts weren’t immediately on site and that a tractor trailer had driven through crash debris on the road.
“There was no mention of that in reports,” Henein said, adding that “the debris would determine the exact point of impact.”
Henein said Kelly later conceded there was debris in both lanes of the road and that none of it was bagged for evidence.
She said Kelly even mistook painted-over roadway markings for tire skid marks.
“It’s ridiculous. It tells you all you need to know about this expert,” Henein said. “Overall, the fairness of the trial was compromised.”
The trial judge found Kelly didn’t fabricate his testimony and didn’t have an agenda, countered Crown attorney Jamie Klukach.
“The trial judge excluded some of his evidence where he lacked experience. He still found (Kelly) was capable of assisting the court,” Klukach said, adding the court was aware of some errors in Kelly’s reports.
The court also found that Kelly didn’t deliberately make mistakes in his notes or overlook eyewitness statements.
Klukach noted the defence used accident scene photos taken by Kelly during the trial and didn’t present evidence that suggested the cause of the crash was different from what the Crown offered.
“The trial judge’s findings were reasonable and supported by the evidence and (the judge) was satisfied it was untainted,” Klukach said.
The appeal court did not set a release date for its ruling on whether Natsis, who remains free on bail, should be acquitted, face a new trial or begin serving her sentence.