This is something of an "ongoing case", but the comments about the investigation findings should be good for discussion.

Doubt raised on driver's identity. Defence expert finds it impossible to say who was in control of vehicle

Sandra McCulloch Times Colonist June 22, 2005

It's impossible to say conclusively which of two men was behind the wheel of a car that smashed into a concrete power pole and killed two 19-year-old men, a collision expert told a provincial court judge on Tuesday.

Jonathan Lawrence was testifying in the trial of Beau Stirling at Western Communities provincial court. The Crown alleges Stirling was driving his Chevy Impala when it crashed on the Old Island Highway on July 16, 2003, after the four occupants had consumed alcohol and ecstasy in downtown Victoria.

Killed in the 4 a.m. crash were Travis Bateman and Kenneth Hamilton, son of former MLA Arnie Hamilton.

The Crown wrapped up its case Monday after six days of testimony. On Tuesday, the focus of Judge Ernie Quantz swung to the case of the defence. Stirling's lawyer John Green called Lawrence, a mechanical engineer, as his sole witness.

Lawrence did not share the view of the Crown's experts as to who was behind the wheel, court heard.

"I am not able to determine ... who was the driver of the car," Lawrence testified.

The identity of the driver is key to the Crown succeeding with its case. Lawrence agreed that Bateman and Hamilton occupied seats on the right side of the car but said he could not say with certainty whether Stirling or the fourth occupant, Adrien Harding, was in the driver's seat.

Stirling was thrown from the vehicle. Harding suffered a broken pelvis and had to be removed from the wreckage by emergency crews. The location of the two men after the crash does not point to one or the other being the driver, Lawrence said.

"It seems to me equal likelihood that the driver could be thrown from the vehicle or could not," he told the court.

But Lawrence admitted that he has not testified in crashes as severe as this. He also said under cross-examination that it was possible the left rear passenger stayed in the car after the impact.

An RCMP collision analyst testifying for the Crown on Friday concluded that Stirling was the driver of the vehicle. And on Monday, another Crown witness, an expert in accident reconstruction, told the court that Stirling was most likely behind the wheel at the time of the crash.

Stirling is charged with two counts of criminal negligence causing death, two counts of impaired driving causing death, and one count each of impaired driving causing bodily harm, criminal negligence causing bodily harm and operating a vehicle with a blood-alcohol content exceeding .08.

The Crown and defence will sum up their cases today.

Quantz will reserve his decision on the case until June 29, when he is expected to deliver his reasons.

Times Colonist (Victoria) 2005

Anyone with thoughts or comments?