Court orders former trooper to stand trial in auto homicide case
On Tuesday, the 7th District Court tentatively scheduled a July trial in the third degree automobile homicide complaint filed against a former law enforcement officer.
The defendant, Courtland Eliot Child Sr., appeared at a continued preliminary hearing in the felony level criminal information on Jan. 14.
Judge Lyle R. Anderson presided on the district court bench and defense counsel Bradley Rich represented the former Utah Highway Patrol trooper during the criminal proceeding.
Deputy Utah County attorney Sherry Ragan and John Easton acted as the special prosecutors in the felony matter, presenting the state's case at the court hearing.
The third degree automobile homicide charge stems from a July 1998 fatal vehicle-bicycle traffic accident on Carbon Avenue in Price.
Filed in June 2002, the formal criminal complaint contends that Child was operating a patrol car in a negligent manner while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs when the UHP vehicle struck Michael Kouris. The young bicycle rider died from injuries incurred in the accident.
The district court initially scheduled an October 2002 preliminary hearing date in the felony level complaint.
After hearing witness testimony at the Oct. 30 proceeding, Judge Anderson granted a motion for continuance and directed legal counsel to arrange a second court setting to complete the preliminary hearing.
On Jan. 14, the prosecution called one witness to testify, Dennis Crouch from the University of Utah's human toxicology center. The toxicology center co-director specializes in researching the effects drugs have on the workplace and traffic safety.
Taking the stand, Crouch confirmed that he had reviewed the results of the state laboratory tests conducted on the blood sample drawn from Child on the day of the fatal traffic accident.
The state lab tests identified the presence of three prescription medications in the defendant's sample, indicated the U of U researcher. Although the medications registered within prescribed therapeutical levels, Crouch testified the central nervous system affects associated with the drugs "could have impaired" the defendant's ability to drive.
Following the U of U toxicology researcher's testimony, Ragan and Easton rested the prosecu-tion's case. Rich informed the court that he had advised Child against testifying at the preliminary hearing and the defense rested without calling any witnesses to the stand.
The probable cause standards for preliminary hearings, as upheld by supreme court rulings, specify that defendants must be bound over for trial unless the prosecution evidence is "wholly lacking," noted Easton, sharing the state's closing arguments with Ragan.
The special prosecutor askedJudge Anderson to disregard the testimony provided by law enforcement investigators and render the court's preliminary hearing decision based primarily on an account of the accident from one eyewitness.
The prosecution's case is not wholly lacking and the court should view the evidence in "the light most favorable to the state," maintained Easton.
Submitting the defense's closing comments, Rich challenged the prosecution's argument urging the court to ignore the statements from law enforcement officers and issue a ruling based on one individual's testimony.
The witness' account of the accident, point of contact and force of impact break the laws of physics, maintained the defense attorney.
Citing the extremely low probable cause standards, Judge Anderson indicated the court was obligated under the law to order Child bound over and the defendant pleaded not guilty to the third degree automobile homicide charge at felony arraignment.
The district judge accepted Child's not guilty plea, tentatively scheduled a July 14 trial date in the felony level complaint and allowed one-week to complete the criminal proceeding.