Nfld. & Labrador

Trial underway for man accused of driving snowmobile drunk, resulting in the death of his passenger

Thomas Whittle is accused of driving a snowmobile while drunk and colliding with a taxi, resulting in the death of his passenger, Justyn Pollard.

Thomas Whittle, 29, has pleaded not guilty

Thomas Whittle is accused of driving a snowmobile drunk across the Humber Valley Resort bridge when he collided with a taxi, killing the passenger. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

With a jury selected, the trial of Thomas Whittle is underway in a Corner Brook courtroom.

Whittle is accused of driving a snowmobile while drunk and killing his passenger after colliding with a taxi. 

Specifically, the 29-year-old is charged with dangerous driving causing death. 

Jury selection began Wednesday morning and was completed by 1 p.m. The trial is expected to last three weeks.

The Conception Bay South man — who is representing himself in court — allegedly drove across the Humber Valley Resort bridge at 4 a.m. on Feb. 19, 2017. 

Justyn Pollard, who was 21 at the time, was taken to Western Memorial Regional Hospital in Corner Brook with severe injuries and later died.

Justyn Pollard, 21, was killed in the collision, on Feb. 19, 2017. (Submitted by Sherry Pollard)

Justice George Murphy is presiding over the trial. The jury is made up of nine women and five men, but Murphy said only 12 can deliberate. He will choose the 12 at random when it comes time to deliberate.

All jurors are physically distanced in the courtroom. 

Earlier Wednesday, the potential jurors were spread out over four separate courtrooms to distance themselves from each other during the selection process, in accordance with COVID-19 protocols.

Crown attorney Renée Coates is leading the prosecution.

While Whittle has chosen to represent himself, St. John's criminal defence lawyer Randy Piercey has been appointed by the judge to assist him, and give advice when necessary. It's a legal term known as amicus curiae, or "friend of the court."

Ultimately, however, it is up to Whittle if he accepts Piercey's guidance. 

Not guilty plea

In the fall of 2019, Whittle pleaded not guilty to impaired driving causing death, impairing driving causing death with a blood-alcohol concentration exceeding 80 milligrams, dangerous driving causing death, impairing driving by drug causing death.

Whittle was not arrested and charged until more than a year after the crash. In March 2018, CBC asked the RCMP why it took so long to lay charges, and a media spokesperson said police had been waiting on blood analysis results.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story stated that Randy Piercey was appointed amicus curiae, or "friend of the court" by the Crown. He was appointed by the judge.
    Jan 13, 2021 2:06 PM NT

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