Accused walks in car death: Reasonable doubt, says judge

Accused walks in car death

Two trials and four years later, justice has still not been met for a Coalhurst father.

The accused, his eyes clouded with unshed tears; was stunned when a Calgary judge found the accused not guilty of three charges stemming from the August 1993 collision that killed his pregnant daughter.

Patricia Rose Goldade was killed in a two-vehicle collision Aug. 28, 1993 at the intersection of 5 Avenue and 23 Street North. She was 28 years old and five months pregnant.

The accused, a Blood Reserve resident, was found not guilty of criminal negligence causing death, impaired driving causing death and driving with an illegal blood-alcohol level. He was convicted of those same charges at a May 1995 trial which he successfully appealed along with the four-year prison term imposed at the time.

“Two months ago, a girl’s life was worth $750,” said Bjerke as he left the Lethbridge courtroom. “Today, two lives are worth nothing. I can’t believe it.”

(Bjerke is referring to the acquittal of Lawrence Jetter on a charge of dangerous driving causing the death of 29-year-old Yvonne Annis and his conviction and $750 fine for impaired driving last February.)

Goldade’s husband Sean was equally frustrated with the verdict.

“It’s absolutely pathetic,” he said. “How the hell do two people, drunk out of their minds, go driving through an intersection … it’s like nothing happened. It’s pathetic, disgusting, this is just ugly.”

The accused refused to comment but a family member accused the Lethbridge media of presenting a biased account of the trial.

“It’s a kangaroo court in the media,” he said. “You wrecked his reputation, what more do you want.”

Mr. Justice Art Lutz, in presenting his decision, said the accused’s demeanor on the stand “damaged” his credibility and his collections of the evening leading up to the accident and of the crash itself were “convenient” and “very selective.”

But he said he was not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused was behind the wheel at the time of the crash. Only one witness at the scene identified the accused as the driver; others stated they didn’t know who was driving.

Both the accused and another man were thrown from the vehicle at the time of the crash.

One witness placed (name removed) at the wheel earlier in the evening.

Lutz said evidence at the trial was often contradictory. “The evidence, in general, was conflicting,” he said. “Often from the same witness.”

Defence lawyer Patrick Fagan said he does not anticipate an appeal by the Crown prosecutor’s office.

Bob Coleman, the Lethbridge prosecutor handling the case, met briefly with the accused after the trial but would not comment on the trial’s outcome.