Michael Anthony Yates, left, sits with his attorney Jon Richardson during his bench trial before Judge Myron Duhart, Tuesday, September 24, 2013.
After hearing two days of testimony, Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Myron Duhart said Wednesday that he would announce a verdict “no later than Monday” in the case of a motorist who drove off Miami Street near the Hollywood Casino and struck two pedestrians, killing one of them.
Michael Yates, 42, of 1128 Ironwood Ave. is charged with aggravated vehicular homicide in the July 21, 2012, death of Stefanie Arnold, 27, of Painesville, Ohio, and vehicular assault for the injuries to Chelsea Skoch of Madison, Ohio, 24.
The women were walking on the sidewalk to the casino from the nearby Days Inn with Mrs. Arnold’s husband, Derek Arnold, and his cousin, Brian Schaedlich, about 8:20 p.m. when Mr. Yates drove up over the curb, struck a fire hydrant, and struck the two women.
Prosecutors contend Mr. Yates was reckless when he drove on a suspended operator’s license and impaired with the painkiller Oxycodone and the muscle relaxant Flexeril in his system.
The defense maintains that Mr. Yates had “therapeutic levels” of the prescribed drugs in his system and that he couldn’t have known the medication he’d been taking since May 31 would make him drowsy while driving.
“It wasn’t his fault that this happened,” defense attorney Jon Richardson said in his closing argument. “This was a tragedy. No one’s shrugging this off. A life was lost, but it was a life that was lost by accident.”
Jeff Lingo, chief of the criminal division for the prosecutor’s office, rejected that claim, saying, “If you drive and you are impaired, that is recklessness.”
“Everything that happened that day were choices made by Mr. Yates,” Mr. Lingo said. “He chose to drive a vehicle while under suspension. It was not a question of whether he takes his medication or not. He could’ve taken his medication and sat at home.”
A Toledo paramedic who attended to Mr. Yates immediately after the crash testified Tuesday that he was not injured but was disoriented, lethargic, and had “pinpoint pupils.” Robert Forney, a forensic toxicologist with the Lucas County Coroner’s Office, testified that all three symptoms would be consistent with Mr. Yates taking more of the medication than was prescribed.
Dr. Diane Scala-Barnett, a deputy Lucas County coroner who performed the autopsy on Mrs. Arnold, also took the stand on Wednesday.
She testified that Mrs. Arnold died from a cervical spine dislocation. She described numerous other injuries, including a large cut on the back of her head where she struck the pavement, “brush burn abrasions” on her body that result from coming into contact with pavement, and a fractured upper and lower jaw.
Her most acute injury, though, was a dislocated neck, which likely ended her life very quickly because it would have rendered her unable to breathe, she said.
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