Both the prosecution and defence accused witnesses of exaggerations, inaccuracies and outright lies as a street-racing trial in the death of an Edmonton teenager closed November 21, 2014.

Jayant Soni, 35, is charged with dangerous driving causing death and street racing causing death after 16-year-old Jeremie LeBlanc was killed at the intersection of 66th Street and 31st Avenue on the night of April 23, 2010.

His car was stuck by a Lexus and a Mercedes-Benz that were speeding on 66th Street. Witnesses said Soni drove the Mercedes. The night of the crash, LeBlanc was driving to the Grey Nuns Hospital where his sister was giving birth.

In closing arguments, Crown prosecutor J.P. Quenneville said the testimony of Rena Noi Onevathana, the Lexus driver, and Tom Sirikoon, Soni’s passenger, was evasive, unco-operative and largely constructed to avoid self-incrimination.

Onevathana admitted he drove his girlfriend’s Lexus after his own lawyer attended the trial to assert that his testimony couldn’t be used to incriminate him. Onevathana didn’t admit he was the driver in his own trial when he received a 90-day jail sentence for fleeing the scene.

Both Onevathana and Sirikoon claimed they clearly remembered there was no street race, yet couldn’t remember anything else about the crash, including why they both left the scene.

Onevathana, Quenneville said, claimed 57 times during his testimony that he couldn’t remember certain details. Sirikoon, the prosecutor said, was “vastly more co-operative” with questions from the defence.

Quenneville presented phone records he said show the two men spoke before and after the fatal crash, proving the association between Soni and Onevathana, the accused street racers who knew each other since high school.

Quenneville said the “catastrophic damage” to LeBlanc’s Oldsmobile shows the Lexus and Mercedes were driven at grossly excessive speeds. “Common sense negates any suggestion this was a low-speed collision. Very clearly, this in fact was a race.”

Defence lawyer Brian Beresh argued the prosecution failed to prove that Soni was racing or driving dangerously.

“There is no solid foundation for you to determine the speed is excessive,” Beresh told the judge. “You may determine the speed exceeded the limit, but that does not constitute dangerous driving.”

Eyewitnesses that testified the pair of vehicles were racing cannot be fully trusted, Beresh said. Discrepancies in testimony regarding the lighting, the weather and the placement of witnesses renders their accounts unreliable.

Beresh was especially critical of Edmonton Police Service traffic reconstructionist Eric Theuser, who he claimed testified with “deliberate arrogance,” and “wanted to help the prosecution.” Beresh said the officer’s testimony should carry no weight.

Beresh also suggested the possibility that LeBlanc had stopped his car in Soni’s path moments before the crash.

Source: Edmonton Journal


Last updated on: 2014-12-04 | Link to this post