Landon J. Gartner leaned forward and exhaled after a Saskatoon judge acquitted him of dangerous driving causing the death of his girlfriend two years ago.
While Gartner’s motorcycle driving the night of June 5, 2016 was “objectively dangerous,” it amounted to a “careless mistake” and not a criminal offence, Saskatoon Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Neil Turcotte said Friday, reading from his 23-page written decision.
“This was an accident that happens every day in this province, if not more than one time a day,” Gartner’s lawyer, Ron Piche, told reporters outside the courthouse moments after Turcotte delivered his decision.
“Just because an accident happens doesn’t mean that someone should be charged criminally, especially in a case like this where my client’s loss was his girlfriend. This was the love of his life,” Piche said.
Lindsay Facca, 28, died on June 7, 2016 from injuries sustained in the crash.
Gartner, who was headed east on Eighth Street, accelerated straight through an amber light at the intersection of Grosvenor Avenue and Eighth Street. As he drove his Harley-Davidson motorcycle through the intersection, he collided with a Subaru Legacy Outback that was turning left off Eight Street and onto Grosvenor Avenue to travel south.
He and Facca were thrown 26 metres, court heard.
At trial, Crown prosecutor Melodi Kujawa argued that a “constellation” of factors, including Gartner’s speed and distance from the intersection when the light changed, elevated Gartner’s actions above a brief lapse in judgment.
Piche contended that the police investigation of the crash was “shoddy” and suggested the driver of the Subaru displayed more “flagrant” conduct than Gartner by turning left before it was safe to do so.
In his decision, Turcotte found that Gartner was travelling 57 kilometres per hour at the moment of impact, and that an east-facing truck waiting at the intersection to turn north into Grosvenor Shopping Centre prevented him from seeing the Subaru and the Subaru driver from seeing him.
Both drivers, Turcotte said, made careless mistakes.
“I am not satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Gartner’s driving is a marked departure from the standard of a reasonably prudent driver in the circumstances,” Turcotte said.
Gartner declined to speak with reporters after his acquittal.
Piche said the facts of the case resonate with all drivers, and that the case should not have been prosecuted. People drive through amber lights every day, Piche said.
“It’s important to distinguish between an accident and criminal liability,” Piche added.
“The Supreme Court says driving is an inherently dangerous thing. We’ve accepted that because of our desire to get from Point A to Point B in vehicles.”
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