Former NHL player Rob Ramage was "as sober as a proverbial judge" when his rental car suddenly veered into oncoming traffic and crashed head-on into an SUV, defence attorney Brian Greenspan said Wednesday in his closing arguments in a Newmarket, Ont., courtroom.
Ramage, 48, has pleaded not guilty to five criminal charges, including impaired and dangerous driving in the death of Keith Magnuson, 56, his passenger.
Magnuson, a former NHL defenceman, died instantly from head and chest injuries.
Greenspan suggested blood and urine samples that showed Ramage had at least two-and-a half and perhaps nearly four times the legal limit of alcohol in his system were flawed.
A nurse admitted she used an alcohol swab to take blood and not the approved non-alcohol kit, and urine samples were contaminated.
Greenspan said police testimony was tainted by overzealous officers, who assumed Ramage was drunk because of the powerful smell of booze at the crash scene, later attributed to exploding beer cans.
"There is absolutely no evidence he was impaired," Greenspan said. "He was a model of sobriety throughout the day."
Ramage and Magnuson were at the funeral reception for NHL alumni president Keith McCreary before the crash. None of the more than 300 people at the reception said Ramage was intoxicated 30 minutes before the crash that also injured SUV driver Michelle Pacheco, 39, of Concord, Ont., Greenspan said.
"Not a single person from the reception were called as Crown witnesses," Greenspan said. "Had there been a witness who could advance their case, you would have heard from them."
'Grasping at straws'
In his close, prosecutor Paul Tait suggested science trumped personal observations.
"Mr. Greenspan is grasping at straws to suggest the blood samples were tainted," Tait told jurors.
"Forensics is the most compelling and reliable evidence of the entire trial."
Magnuson died as a result of Ramage's "driving conduct," which was affected by his "ability to drive while impaired," Tait said.
The fact that Ramage's speech wasn'tslurred and he never stumbled doesn't mean he wasn't "masking" his impairment, like many seasoned drinkers, Tait told jurors.
No breath tests were administered because Ramage was given morphine after arriving at hospital and couldn't understand police.
Nobody reported Ramage driving erratically over the 25½ kilometres from the reception to the crash scene.
The jury will begin their deliberation Thursday after receiving instructions from Justice Alexander Sosna.