A Delburne man’s “reckless disregard” while chasing a stolen vehicle led to the fatal collision on a rural central Alberta highway in August 2016, a Crown prosecutor told jurors.
Daniel Wayne Newsham, 47, ignored RCMP warnings not to pursue Stanley Dick and continued chasing him until their two pickups collided on Highway 42 near Lousana, said Crown prosecutor Brittany Ashmore on Monday.
After making contact, Dick’s Ford F-150 veered into the ditch and then rolled as he drove back onto the highway.
Dick, 32, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was thrown from the pickup, landing on the highway. He died later in hospital.
Newsham was charged with manslaughter for his role in Dick’s death and has been on trial since last Tuesday in Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench.
His fate is now in the hands of the seven-man, five-woman jury, which began deliberating on Monday afternoon.
Justice Eric Macklin told the jury it had four possible verdicts. Not guilty, or guilty of manslaughter, dangerous driving causing death or dangerous driving.
To find Newsham guilty of dangerous driving the jury must be convinced that his driving was not just careless but was a “marked departure” from how a reasonable person would drive under the circumstances.
During the trial that began last Tuesday, the jury heard that Newsham and his friend Karl Raniseth were driving around when they came across Dick in Delburne on the evening of Aug. 14, 2016. Suspicious, they tried to get the licence number of Dick’s black Dodge Durango, but he drove off with Newsham in pursuit at the wheel of his customized, jacked-up Dodge Ram truck.
Dick wound up on a rural property, where he crashed the Durango into bulk fuel tanks. He then stole a Ford F-150 and drove off, hitting the SUV of a neighbour who had come to investigate.
Newsham and Raniseth, with the owner of the stolen pickup in the back seat, followed Dick to Highway 42.
Dick slammed on the brakes and cut Newsham off when he tried to pass, before the two vehicles clipped each other and Dick lost control shortly before 11:30 p.m., court has heard.
Ashmore said the jury should be skeptical of Newsham’s testimony that he was driving at a safe distance, noting he said he could not recall how fast he was driving because he was not paying attention.
Given Dick’s aggressive driving, Newsham’s decision to try to pass was not the decision of a reasonable person, but rather, “absolutely reckless,” she said.
As well, an RCMP forensic collision reconstructionist’s analysis supports a crash caused by Newsham’s Dodge hitting the Ford.
Defence lawyer Balfour Der said Newsham’s driving was not dangerous. A passenger in his truck said they travelled between 60 and 100 km/h and were 100 to 200 feet behind the Ford most of the time.
“This was nothing like a chase,” Der told the seven-man, five-woman jury.
If Newsham had meant to ram Dick’s vehicle, he would not have waited until they were on Highway 42 and he had a stranger as a passenger and witness.
“If his intent was to do that, he would have done it long before it actually happened,” said Der.
The testimony of all three people in Newsham’s Dodge is consistent that the Ford veered across the road and hit them, he said.
“In my respectful submission, Mr. Dick caused his own death. His driving was responsible for what happened.”
While Newsham’s decision to follow Dick may have been ill-advised and foolish, “nothing that Mr. Newsham did was unlawful,” said Der.