Carter guilty of causing death

Henry York Carter, 29, was found guilty on Friday evening of causing the death of Glen ‘Papa Sleepy’ Seymour by driving recklessly on the night of 4 January 2007.

Justice Alexander Henderson directed that a social inquiry report be prepared and he allowed Carter to remain on bail until the date for sentencing, _27 February. Meanwhile, he prohibited Carter from driving and told him to surrender his licence to the courts office.

During the weeklong trial jurors heard that there is no sidewalk in the area of the collision; Mr. Seymour was walking westward on the seaside of the road, which is the same side used by westbound vehicles; At the hospital, he tested positive for consumption of ganja, but the test did not indicate the level or when in the previous 30 days he would have used it.

Jurors also heard that Carter is blind in his left eye and has been since age 10. He told the court he compensates by positioning his body or turning his head to increase his field of vision. When driving, ‘I try to stay in the middle of my lane.’

He also admitted drinking two beers between the time he left work and the time the van he was driving was in collision with Mr. Seymour. The van is left-hand drive.

The incident occurred around 9.30pm just west of Leeroy Frederick Beach. Carter said he saw Papa Sleepy from about 250 feet and was ‘keeping a close eye on him throughout’. He said he knew Papa Sleepy, who dragged his feet as he walked. That night he was walking ‘one foot off the tarmac and one foot on the tarmac.’

Then Papa Sleepy made a movement to the side. Carter did not know if he slipped or fell – he just went out on the road. There was no time to take any evasive action. Papa Sleepy hit the hood and bounced off the van in a split second.

Carter admitted leaving the scene. He said he did so because he was scared and didn’t want to go to jail. He thought police would not believe him. And he couldn’t bring himself to face the sight of the injuries.

In summing up the case on Friday morning, Justice Henderson said jurors could take this into account only in a limited way. ‘You cannot find him guilty simply because he left the scene.’

Jurors could consider whether he left the scene to avoid arrest because he knew he had been driving in a reckless manner. In other words – was his fear of arrest and detection caused by an awareness on his part that he had been driving in a way that posed an obvious and serious risk to the public?

If jurors found that it was, they could take it into account together with the other circumstances when deciding whether Carter did drive in a reckless manner.

The issue was whether Carter drove recklessly – Jurors had to be sure that he drove in such a manner as to create an obvious risk of causing harm to some other person using the road and he did so without any thought of there being any such risk or, recognising there was some risk, nevertheless went on to take the risk.

Jurors were told to apply the standard of the ordinary prudent driver ‘as represented by yourself.’

As to the two beers Carter said he drank, the judge pointed out there was no evidence of any more. Neither was there any evidence of speed: the van did not attract the attention of two civilian witnesses who were on the other side of the road.

They were walking and cycling eastward and the collision occurred behind them.

Justice Henderson said the heart of the Crown’s case came from accident reconstructionist Vincent Walters, who was called as an expert witness.

Mr. Walters said he could reconstruct from photos what had happened. He concluded that, from the damage to the van and the point where Mr. Seymour was lying after being hit, the van would have been travelling on the road shoulder. Otherwise, Mr. Seymour would have been lying in the roadway.

Justice Henderson emphasised that, although an expert is allowed to express his opinion, the jury is entitled to accept that opinion but is not obliged to.

In her closing remarks, Crown Counsel Kirsty-Ann Gunn reminded jurors that the road in the area of the incident is 24 feet wide, each lane 12 feet wide. She said Carter had accepted that people walk in that area of Bodden Town and pedestrians present an obvious risk.

Defence Attorney Clyde Allen said his client had not left the scene to give himself time to think of what to tell police. Mr. Allen reminded jurors of evidence from Carter’s work manager. Carter had called him minutes after the accident and said the pedestrian stepped out in front of him.

The jury retired at 12.10pm, with lunch provided. At 5.40 pm Justice Henderson said he could accept a majority verdict if jurors were not unanimous. The jury foreman sent a message at minutes to six that they were ready. The guilt verdict was by a division of 5-2.

The judge said it was evident jurors had given a lot of consideration and effort to their role. Whatever happened in the courtroom was public and they could discuss it. However, he cautioned, ‘Whatever passed between you in the jury room is confidential and must remain so forever.’