Nat­sis ap­peal heard

De­fence lawyer tells Nat­sis ap­peal that OPP ex­pert wit­ness was bi­ased

The Daily Observer - - FRONT PAGE - KEVIN CON­NOR

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.

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