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Published: Wednesday, 11/21/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Michigan man, 19, fights vehicular homicide charges

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Andrew Roberts of Saline, Mich., listens to cross-examination during his aggravated vehicular homicide trial in Lucas County Common Pleas Court. He drove a pickup that struck a guardrail in October, 2011, causing the death of Erik Parks of Saline. Andrew Roberts of Saline, Mich., listens to cross-examination during his aggravated vehicular homicide trial in Lucas County Common Pleas Court. He drove a pickup that struck a guardrail in October, 2011, causing the death of Erik Parks of Saline.
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After careening into a guardrail at a curve on State Rt. 2, the pickup driven by Andrew Roberts on Oct. 14, 2011, lay on the road in two pieces. The side where passenger Erik Parks of Saline, Mich., was seated was sheared off, leaving a gaping hole in the metal where the door should have been.

A Lucas County Common Pleas Court judge viewed photographs of the pickup truck during testimony offered Tuesday at Mr. Roberts’ trial. He is charged with causing the crash that resulted in Mr. Parks’ death

Mr. Roberts, 19, also of Saline, Mich., is charged with two alternate counts of aggravated vehicular homicide, including one punishable by up to eight years in prison that alleges Mr. Roberts had marijuana metabolites in his system. The alternate charge alleges reckless behavior and has a possible sentence of up to five years in prison.

“The reason Erik Parks is dead is because the defendant, Andrew Roberts, got behind the wheel of a truck with marijuana metabolites in his system and not having slept for 24 hours,” said Jennifer Liptack-Wilson, an assistant county prosecutor. “Not surprising at all, the defendant crashed that truck and Erik Parks died.”

Attorney Lorin Zaner countered that the crash and Mr. Parks’ death was “a tragedy in all respects,” but it was simply an accident. He noted it was impossible to determine from the toxicology results from Mr. Roberts’ urine sample whether the driver was impaired at the time of the crash.

“Accidents happen,” he said. “… There is no evidence whatsoever … that [marijuana] affected Andrews’ driving on the early morning hours of Oct. 14, 2011.”

Before the trial, Mr. Roberts waived his right to a jury and asked that the case be heard by Judge Dean Mandros. Today the judge will hear arguments on the admissibility of reports — including the results of a drug test taken from urine collected in an unsterilized hospital container — and closing arguments.

Six witnesses testified during the day-long trial, including Robert Forney, the chief toxicologist for the Lucas County Coroner’s Office. Dr. Forney testified that he reviewed the results of Mr. Roberts’ urine test, which indicated the presence of 72.15 nanograms per milliliter of the marijuana metabolite.

In Ohio, 35 nanograms per milliliter is the limit allowed under the law.

Although Mr. Roberts’ test showed higher than the legal limit for impairment, Dr. Forney testified he could not opine whether Mr. Roberts was impaired.

The doctor testified it is difficult to say when the drug was ingested and therefore whether the individual was impaired. In this case, the doctor testified the drug could have been consumed from one hour before the event to three days prior.

Also testifying were Ohio State Highway Troopers Christopher Seambos and Steven Zientek. Trooper Seambos showed the court pictures of the crash scene, which included the truck with its side torn off and the bed of the pickup dislodged and upside down several feet away from the truck’s cab.

Trooper Seambos interviewed Mr. Roberts at the hospital and collected a urine sample from him. The trooper testified Mr. Roberts told him remembered nodding off and, as he came to, heading toward a guardrail.

Contact Erica Blake at: eblake@theblade.com or 419-213-2134.


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