'I'm not being combative': Heated testimony at trial for man accused in fatal crash

There were heated moments in court on Wednesday, as defence lawyer Bob Simmonds questioned police officers who investigated a fatal crash in 2016.

Defence lawyer and RCMP officer faced off over police investigation into collision

Bob Simmonds is known for his intensity in the courtroom, and it was on display Tuesday as he questioned police officers about a 2016 fatal crash in which only his client was charged. (Fred Hutton/CBC)

There were tense moments Wednesday at the trial of Kyle Follett who is facing a traffic ticket for driving without due care and attention — an offence that stems from a massive crash on the Trans-Canada Highway.

Grasping each side of the witness stand, Royal Canadian Mounted Police Const. Janet Austin stared directly back at defence lawyer Bob Simmonds and stated emphatically, "I am not being combative."

Raising his own voice, Simmonds responded, "Yes, you are."

Austin was called to testify at the trial of Follett, the truck driver was ticketed for his part in an accident that claimed two lives in April, 2016 near Butter Pot Provincial Park on the TCH.

The back-and-forth between the lawyer and police officer became quite loud as Simmonds pressed Austin on her role in investigating the crash.

Simmonds was trying to find out if the RAV4, that was driven by Dwaine Dalton, was in park when it was struck by the truck driven by Follett.

Dalton's passengers, 40-year-old Shannon Pittman and 52-year-old Randy Ralph, were killed in the accident.

Austin, who didn't go to the scene, examined the vehicles in a garage.

RCMP Const. Janet Austin testified in court on Tuesday, getting in a heated conversation with defence lawyer Bob Simmonds. (Fred Hutton/CBC)

"When I saw it, the vehicle was in park," she said.

Simmonds continued his cross-examination asking why the the officer didn't have more details in her notes about the condition of the gear shift. Austin replied, "I didn't need them."

With tension continuing to mount, Judge Colin Flynn stopped the exchange.

Pointing at Simmonds, he said, "You ask the questions," and turning to Austin, said, "You answer them ... Just answer the questions. Don't offer any more commentary."

In her final seconds on the stand, Simmonds stared at Austin and said, "I don't find this hilarious."

"Neither do I," Austin said while glaring back.

'Well, who does know?'

Earlier in the day, Cpl. Trevor Baldwin was questioned by Simmonds as to why police sought warrants with a view to laying charges against three of the drivers involved in the multi-vehicle accident, but only decided to charge Follett.

Baldwin told the court that he had assisted Cpl. Trevor O'Keefe in the initial stages of the investigation, but O'Keefe died last fall.

"I honestly don't know why," Baldwin said to Simmonds questioning.

"Well, who does know?" Simmonds replied.

Kyle Follett is the only person facing charges after a fatal crash in 2016 that involved several vehicles. (Fred Hutton/CBC)

During the lunch break, the defence asked that the supervisor from the Holyrood RCMP detachment be subpoenaed to testify and answer that question.

The first accident

The court has already heard that two accidents happened on the stretch of highway that day in April.

Initially, a Dodge Ram, with a stolen ATV in the back, left the road and ended up in the median. The ATV bounced out of the truck.

Investigators say evidence shows the truck was travelling at 170 km/h when it crashed.

The driver, Lee Campbell, died of an unrelated cause several months later.

Police speaking to witnesses of a fatal crash on the Trans-Canada Highway near Butterpot Provincial Park in April, 2016. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

Simmonds asked why Campbell was never charged with dangerous driving, even though police had sought a warrant based on the evidence about the excessive rate of speed in traffic.

Simmonds also pointed out that when seeking the warrants, the RCMP had also indicated there was enough evidence to lay a charge under the Highway Traffic Act against Dwaine Dalton, the driver of the RAV4. He was also never charged

If convicted, Follett will face a fine of $180.

The trial will continue at provincial court on Thursday.

About the Author

Fred Hutton

CBC News

Fred Hutton works with CBC's bureau in St. John's.