Crown and de­fence at odds in trial

The Barrie Examiner - - FRONT PAGE - TRACY MCLAUGH­LIN

Driver Tyson Lawlor can­not es­cape blame for Ellen Silk’s death, even though she was not wear­ing a seat­belt, be­cause he was driv­ing while drunk, a Crown at­tor­ney in­sisted Fri­day in a Bar­rie court­room.

“He was par­ty­ing, he was singing, he was drink­ing while driv­ing, he was turn­ing around, he had beer in his cup holder … he caused the death of Ellen Silk,” Crown at­tor­ney Bhavna Bhangu said in clos­ing ar­gu­ments.

Lawlor, a 22-year-old Oril­lia man, has pleaded not guilty to im­paired driv­ing caus­ing death, driv­ing over 80 and crim­i­nal neg­li­gence caus- ing death.

Lawlor ad­mits he was driv­ing his black pickup truck with three pas­sen­gers on the way home from a Mid­land bar at around 3 a.m. when he swerved off the road and crashed into a tree on Warmin­ster Side Road, near Oril­lia, on Nov. 20, 2015.

Lawlor’s cousin, 20-year-old Ellen Silk, was sit­ting in the back seat next to a case of beer and was killed.

The tragic evening started out when Lawlor and Silk and two other friends took some beers they called “road­ies” with them as they drove from Oril­lia to a Mid­land bar where they drank and played pool.

On the way home, he had a beer in the cup holder be­side him while the four were laugh­ing and singing with coun­try songs blar­ing when Lawlor sud­denly turned to look at his friends in the back seat and swerved from the right side of the road into the left ditch and into a tree, which smashed the back win­dow where Silk was sit­ting.

When the truck came to a stop, ev­ery­thing was si­lent. As the sur­vivors turned on the in­te­rior light, they looked into the back seat and saw their friend had been killed. They be­gan scream­ing hys­ter­i­cally and went into shock.

Ear­lier in the trial, the court saw a video show­ing Lawlor, up­set, his head in his hands, weep­ing, at the Oril­lia po­lice sta­tion where he gave breath tests two hours later.

Court has heard Lawlor’s blood­al­co­hol level was be­tween 150 and 190 at the time of the crash.

“My friends were in the back seat and I turned around just for a sec and we were in the ditch,” he ex­plained to a po­lice of­fi­cer in the video.

“Were you close to her?” asks the po­lice of­fi­cer.

“Yup,” he an­swers.

Sev­eral times he tells the of­fi­cer he doesn’t want to speak with­out a lawyer, but the of­fi­cer con­tin­ues his ques­tion­ing.

In clos­ing ar­gu­ments, de­fence lawyer Ray Morhan in­sisted that is was the “split-sec­ond” turn­ing of his head that caused the crash.

Morhan claims that while Lawlor is guilty of driv­ing with al­co­hol in his sys­tem over the le­gal limit, there is no proof that he was driv­ing while im­paired.

“It was a mis­take that any­one could have made with­out be­ing im­paired in any way,” Morhan said. “Turn­ing your head for a split-sec­ond is not an in­di­ca­tion of im­pair­ment.”

He noted Lawlor’s friends and six bar staff at the bar stated he did not seem im­paired.

“In cases like this, we all look to as­sign blame … but the ev­i­dence does not es­tab­lish im­paired driv­ing,” Morhan said. “This was a com­bi­na­tion of a mo­men­tary dis­trac­tion by the driver and the un­for­tu­nate fact that the de­ceased had no seat-belt which ended with tragic re­sults.”

But the Crown in­sisted Lawlor can­not es­cape li­a­bil­ity for Silk’s death, re­gard­less of the fact that Silk “pos­si­bly” could have sur­vived had she been wear­ing a seat-belt.

“Ellen Silk did not die solely be­cause she wasn’t wear­ing a seat­belt; she died be­cause the driver couldn’t keep that truck on the road,” Bhangu said. “Whether or not she was wear­ing a seat-belt, her life was in his hands … and he was im­paired.”

Bhangu pointed to ev­i­dence of other crashes where bod­ies were ejected from a ve­hi­cle even though a seat-belt was worn.

Bhangu also pointed to sci­en­tific ev­i­dence that shows a per­son driv­ing with a blood-al­co­hol read­ing of 150 is 25 times more likely to be in­volved in a crash while driv­ing.

Bhungu de­scribed the hor­rific scene, Silk’s body wedged be­tween the back seat be­side a case of beer, an open can of beer on the floor.

“This could have been a poster for Mother’s Against Drunk Driv­ing,” Bhangu said.

Jus­tice Nancy Daw­son is hop­ing to have her ver­dict ready by Aug. 21.

If found guilty, Lawlor could be look­ing at a lengthy pri­son sen­tence. While the max­i­mum sen­tence is life in pri­son, the av­er­age sen­tence for a first-time of­fender is about four years.


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