Trial revolves around speed, booze and seatbelts

Michael Schmidt took the stand in his own defence on Thursday. He's facing six charges, including impaired driving causing bodily harm and the dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily harm.

Michael Schmidt took the stand in his own defence on Thursday.

He’s facing six charges, including impaired driving causing bodily harm and the dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily harm.

His recollection of the events leading up to the December 2009 car accident differed from the testimony offered by Jessica Frotten, one of two passengers who were severely injured in the crash.

Frotten remains confined to a wheelchair to this day.

At the time of the crash, Schmidt was going 140 kilometres per hour, she said.

Schmidt admitted speeding, but said he was only going around 110 and had started to slow down before he lost control of his grey Honda Civic.

Frotten also said she asked him to slow down, something Schmidt denied.

“If anyone had asked me to slow down, I would have immediately,” he said.

When the car crashed into the ditch, it rolled several times ejecting Frotten and the other passenger, Michael Sanderson, from the vehicle.

Frotten testified she was wearing her seatbelt at the time, but had put the shoulder strap behind her back.

Despite wearing the lap belt, Frotten said she hit her head on the ceiling of the car as they went over a bump shortly before the crash.

Under cross-examination from the Crown, Schmidt said he couldn’t recall if Frotten was wearing a seatbelt, but did remember asking her to put it on when the warning light came on.

However, in an emotional videotaped interview with police the day of the crash, Schmidt said Frotten wasn’t wearing a seatbelt.

“She was looking right at me smiling,” he said tearfully. “Why wasn’t she wearing a seatbelt?”

In that interview with police, Schmidt didn’t mention he and Sanderson stopped at Frotten’s house earlier in the day.

While Schmidt admitted he consumed “Irish coffee” earlier in the day and split a pitcher of beer with lunch, he denied having anything to drink at the Yukon Brewery before the trio set out on that fateful road trip to Haines Junction.

Thursday, Schmidt testified he had two samples of beer at the brewery.

When asked by the Crown why he had left that out of his original statement to police, Schmidt said that tiny amount of beer didn’t seem relevant.

A breath sample taken from Schmidt a few hours after the crash showed his blood-alcohol level measured 70 mg.

That’s under the legal limit of 80 mg.

By extrapolating backwards, Brian Image, a forensic alcohol specialist with the RCMP lab in Vancouver, testified that, by his calculations, at the time of the crash Schmidt would have had a blood alcohol level of between 86 mg. and 133 mg.

However, the calculation assumes he had stopped drinking at least half an hour before the accident.

If Schmidt drank even a small amount of alcohol – like a few samples of beer – it could throw the calculation off, exaggerating the results, said Image.

The Crown accused Schmidt of tailoring his testimony to bolster his own defence, something he denied.

Earlier Schmidt’s lawyer tried to have the breathalyzer results thrown out on the grounds that the police didn’t have enough evidence to demand a breath sample.

The evidence needed for demanding a breathalyzer is much higher than for a roadside screening device.

Suspicion alone is not enough.

The RCMP didn’t have a roadside screening device with them, but placed Schmidt under arrest anyway.

Schmidt’s lawyer argued that RCMP didn’t have enough evidence, and that Schmidt’s arrest was a violation of his Charter rights.

But Justice Ronald Veale disagreed, finding police had reasonable grounds.

The trial is expected to wrap up today.

Contact Josh Kerr at joshk@yukon-news.com.

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