Car iden­tity the is­sue in street rac­ing trial

Judge to ren­der ver­dict Oct. 29 in case of man ac­cused of caus­ing Han­nah Thorne’s death

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - LOCAL - BY ROSIE MUL­LA­LEY rosie.mul­la­ley@thetele­gram.com Twit­ter: Te­ly­rosie

There’s no doubt­ing wit­nesses trav­el­ling on Route 73 along the New Har­bour Bar­rens saw what looked like a small, dark­coloured Chevy Cobolt speed­ing past them on the evening of July 7, 2016.

But whether there’s enough ev­i­dence to prove it was the same small, dark-coloured Chevy Cobolt Steven Ryan Mercer was driv­ing in the same area at around the same time is what Jus­tice Wil­liam Goodridge must de­ter­mine.

He must also de­cide whether there’s enough ev­i­dence to con­clude Mercer was rac­ing with a Ford F-150 pickup truck that smashed into a Hyundai Ac­cent – a col­li­sion that in­stantly killed 18-year-old Han­nah Thorne and se­ri­ously in­jured the Ac­cent’s driver, her grand­mother, Ger­tie Thorne.

Mercer has pleaded not guilty to charges of crim­i­nal neg­li­gence caus­ing death, crim­i­nal neg­li­gence caus­ing bod­ily harm, street rac­ing caus­ing death, street rac­ing caus­ing bod­ily harm and breach­ing court or­ders.

In clos­ing ar­gu­ments at New­found­land Supreme Court in St. John’s Thurs­day, Crown pros­e­cu­tor Richard De­veau said while the ev­i­dence is cir­cum­stan­tial, given the ev­i­dence of the wit­nesses “there is no other ra­tio­nal in­fer­ence that can be made. There’s no other plau­si­ble ex­pla­na­tion.”

Mercer ad­mit­ted to po­lice he was driv­ing his girl­friend’s Cobolt along that high­way, but said he had just passed the site of the col­li­sion when it hap­pened. He said he saw it in his rearview mir­ror.

De­veau said the pos­si­bil­ity of two Cobolts in the same area driv­ing at that rate of speed at around the same time is, “not a rea­son­able the­ory. Nor is it plau­si­ble. … It’s non­sen­si­cal and de­fies com­mon sense.”

But Mercer’s lawyer, Randy Piercey, pointed out that none of the wit­nesses could say for cer­tain af­ter the crash that the dark­coloured car they saw zoom­ing past them was ac­tu­ally a Cobolt. The only wit­ness who said it was a Cobolt came to that con­clu­sion only af­ter see­ing one at a car lot shortly af­ter the in­ci­dent.

The other wit­nesses, Piercey said, all had slightly dif­fer­ent de­scrip­tions. One, for ex­am­ple, said the car had black tail­lights, when Mercer’s had red. Oth­ers said it was a dark-coloured car, some said blue or pur­ple and con­ceded they didn’t know the make of the car. There were also dif­fer­ing rec­ol­lec­tions about whether it was a two-door or four-door ve­hi­cle.

“This should not be suf­fi­cient (enough ev­i­dence) for the court (to con­vict Mercer),” Piercey said.

Piercey said there is a pos­si­bil­ity Mercer’s Cobolt was on the same high­way, but that the wit­nesses didn’t no­tice his ve­hi­cle.

“Drive home to­day and we don’t no­tice what cars pass us,” he said. “We don’t pay at­ten­tion to that.”

He also ques­tioned why Brian King, the driver of the F-150, wasn’t called to tes­tify.

“That’s a huge hole in the Crown’s case,” Piercey said.

King even­tu­ally pleaded guilty to charges of street rac­ing caus­ing death, dan­ger­ous op­er­a­tion of a mo­tor ve­hi­cle caus­ing bod­ily harm and neg­li­gent driv­ing, and re­ceived a four-year jail sen­tence, mi­nus credit for the time he had spent in jail since his ar­rest.

Goodridge is sched­uled to ren­der the ver­dict in Mercer’s case Oct. 29.

ROSIE MUL­LA­LEY/THE TELEGRAM

Steven Ryan Mercer was back in New­found­land Supreme Court in St. John’s Thurs­day for clos­ing ar­gu­ments in his trial.

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