Truck driver's only fault was failing to signal, lawyer argues

An Ottawa truck driver whose vehicle struck and killed a cyclist in downtown Ottawa is only guilty of failing to signal his right-hand turn, his defence lawyer argued Monday.

Cyclist Nusrat Jahan, 23, died when truck struck her as she rode in Laurier bike lane

Ottawa cyclist Nusrat Jahan was killed in a collision with this dump truck on Sept. 1, 2016. (Martin Weaver/CBC )

An Ottawa truck driver whose vehicle struck and killed a cyclist in downtown Ottawa is only guilty of failing to signal his right-hand turn, his defence lawyer argued Monday.  

Steven Conley, 40, has pleaded not guilty to criminal negligence causing death and dangerous driving causing death of 23-year-old Willis College student Nusrat Jahan. Jahan was struck and killed while cycling on Laurier Avenue W. on Sept. 1, 2016.

Lawyers for both the defence and Crown made their closing arguments Monday after the evidence portion of the trial finished in July.

In court, defence lawyer Dominic Lamb played a video from a City of Ottawa traffic camera that he said showed Conley's construction truck approaching the intersection of Laurier Avenue W. and Lyon Street at around 7:47 a.m. 

It was clear, Lamb said, that his client stopped for a red light and only proceeded to turn right onto Lyon Street when the straight green arrow had changed to solid green, indicating it was safe to turn right. 

Conley didn't see Nusrat, Lamb told the court, because she was in the driver's blind spot. 

"He was driving slowly. He stopped for the red light at the appropriate spot behind the vehicle stop line," he said. "Mr. Conley didn't turn right until there was a solid green signal." 

Lamb told Justice David Berg that the Crown had failed to make its case, arguing his client's only transgression was failing to use his turn signal, which he characterized as a "minor offence" under Ontario's Highway Traffic Act. 

"There was a series of tragic events that morning, but to extract from that that his actions posed a danger to the public is not supportable," Lamb said.

Jahan, 23, was cycling on Laurier Avenue W. to class at Willis College when the truck hit her. (courtesy of family)

No evidence driver couldn't see cyclist: Crown

Crown prosecutor John Ramsay responded, saying "no evidence had been presented as why [Conley] did not or could not see her."

Jahan, he added, was there for "a long time."

"To suggest the driver had a momentary lapse just doesn't hold weight," Ramsay said.

"When people willfully and wantonly disregard the rules of driving there are consequences," he continued. "There was a disregard to using the turn signal when there was a danger of someone who isn't in a giant cage weighing hundreds and hundreds of pounds, but on a bicycle." 

Ramsay also refuted the defence claim that Conley waited until the green arrow turned to a solid green before starting his right-hand turn.  

He called on the judge to convict the driver on both counts.

"Mr. Conley made a decision that day that raises it to the level of criminal content," Ramsay said. "It is a tragedy, but the negligence goes beyond what's in the Highway Traffic Act."

The Crown's case received a blow earlier in the trial when Berg tossed out most evidence from an Ottawa police collision investigator who testified Conley would have clearly seen the cyclist before he turned right. The re-enactment of the crash — played in court earlier in the trial — contained several major errors.

The judge is expected to hand down his decision on Feb. 5, 2019.