AUSA #1: Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, texting while driving has become a national epidemic. Every year, nearly 500,000 people are injured and 6,000 people are killed because drivers are talking, texting and e-mailing behind the wheel. The evidence will show that this is exactly what happened on May 11, 2011 when Riley Gardner was driving a car full of friends after a party, late on a rainy night. Witnesses will testify that he was sending a text message to his girlfriend while he was driving and lost control of his vehicle on the slippery, wet roads, ultimately colliding with a light pole. That collision caused the death of 17- year-old Courtney Walls. It also resulted in serious injuries to another passenger, Sidney Young. You will hear Mr. Young describe the lasting impact Mr. Gardner’s gross negligence and the resulting injuries have had on his quality of life.
Judge: Thank you. Does the defense wish to make an opening statement?
Defense Attorney #1: Yes. Your Honor. Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, the evidence will show that while my client may have been texting his girlfriend prior to the accident, he was NOT distracted at the time of the accident. He had already thrown the phone to his passenger and was focused on the road. In fact, witnesses will testify that they passed two other vehicles that had spun out on the same road due to the poor weather conditions. This was an unfortunate accident, pure and simple, not the result of inattentiveness or negligence by Mr. Gardner.
*** Comments: Judge will explain demeanor and keeping an open mind and impartiality.
The Government’s Case
1. Direct Examination of Witness, Sidney Young
2. Cross Examination of Witness, Sidney Young
3. Direct Examination of Witness Javier Perez
4. Cross Examination of Witness, Javier Perez
5. Direct Examination of Witness Tracy Gardner
6. Cross Examination of Witness, Tracy Gardner
7. Direct Examination of Witness, CHP Officer Chris Jones
8. Cross Examination of Witness, CHP Officer Chris Jones
9. Direct Examination of Witness Dr. Jan Smith
10. Cross Examination of Witness, Dr. Jan Smit
11. Redirect Examination of Dr. Jan Smith
1. Direct Examination of Riley Gardner
2. Cross Examination of Riley Gardner
3. Direct Examination of Alex Williams
4. Cross Examination of Alex Williams
Judge: Members of the jury, an attorney for each party will now make a closing argument. The attorneys’ arguments are not evidence; they are only a possible interpretation of the evidence presented during the trial. It is up to you to decide what happened. The prosecutor may now address the jury.
For the Prosecution
(By AUSA #2)
[at podium] Thank you, Your Honor. Ladies and gentlemen, we have proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Gardner was texting his girlfriend at the time of the accident. His actions were grossly negligent, and directly resulted in the death of Courtney Walls and serious injuries to Sidney Young. As you heard several witnesses testify, Mr. Gardner was distracted while communicating with his girlfriend and not focused on the hazardous road conditions brought on by the heavy rain. And this was not the first time he had sent text messages while driving — he admitted that he often texted while driving and even his mother said she was aware he used his phone while driving. This accident could have been avoided had Mr. Gardner left his cell phone where it belonged while he was driving… in his pocket. His conduct was grossly negligent and you should convict him of the charge of vehicular manslaughter. Thank you.
Judge: Thank you Counsel. The attorney for Mr. Gardner may now address the jury.
For the Defense
(by Defense Attorney # 2)
[at podium] Thank you, Your Honor. Ladies and gentlemen, the government has proved nothing beyond the fact that my client was driving on a rainy night and involved in a car accident similar to many others the same evening, two of which were on the same road. He admitted that he had responded to a couple of texts from his girlfriend, but at the time of the accident, his cell phone was not even on his person. He had tossed it to his passenger, Sidney Young. The road conditions were not ideal and you heard testimony that my client asked Mr. Young to let his girlfriend know he couldn’t text her while driving in those conditions. It is terrible and unfortunate that Ms. Walls was killed, and Mr. Young was injured, in this accident. However, Riley was not negligent. He was just a kid taking his friends out for a burger on a rainy night. He was being as careful as he could be on a rainy night, which is why he tossed his phone to his passenger…to avoid being distracted. Driving is dangerous and accidents happen. You should find him not guilty of the charge in this case. Thank you.
Judge: Thank you Counsel. Counsel for the government may make a rebuttal argument at this time.
For the Prosecution
(By AUSA #2)
[at podium] Thank you, Your Honor. Ladies and gentlemen, this is not just an unfortunate accident. This accident ended one person’s life and caused serious permanent injury to another. Were it not for Riley Gardner’s gross negligence behind the wheel on that rainy night last May, Courtney Wells would still be alive and Sydney Young would still be pursuing his dream of becoming a pilot. Riley Gardner should be punished for his negligence which caused this deadly accident. Thank you.
*** Comments: Judge will explain the purpose and importance of jury instructions and explain how they should be used during deliberations.
Judge: [Read packet of attached jury instructions]
Judge: The jury may now retire to consider its verdict. You have 20 minutes to decide the case. Courtroom Deputy, please show the jury into the jury room.
[Courtroom Deputy walks across, and opens door to jury room for jurors]
[At the end of the allotted time or when the jury opens the door with a verdict:]
Judge: The Courtroom Deputy will knock on door and instruct the jury to take their seats.
Courtroom Deputy: [knocks on jury room door] The jury will return to the courtroom.
Judge: Has the jury reached a verdict?
Foreperson: We have. [hands verdict form to the Courtroom Deputy]
Courtroom Deputy: [read the verdict aloud] Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, is this your verdict as presented and read, the verdict of each of you, so say you all?
Jury [in unison]: Yes.
Judge: Thank you. That will be all.
Courtroom Deputy: The Court is in recess.