Driver acquitted in death case

| 06/11/2014

(CNS): A woman who was facing a five year jail term for causing death by dangerous driving walked away from the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal Thursday with her named cleared after her conviction was overturned. Dorlisa Piercy was found guilty earlier this year of killing Karen Edwards and her unborn child in an East End road smash in August 2011, caused by her driving at a high speed. However, the crown did not oppose an appeal brought by defence attorney Lucy Organ on Piercy’s behalf, as a result of the trial judge’s error over the speed. The lawyer said the judge was wrong to find dangerous driving as there was no expert evidence to support the accusation of excessive speed.

While not opposing the appeal, the crown had argued that Piercy should stand trial again on the same charges, despite the problems it had with its expert witnesses.

One was found not to be an expert and the second, although accepted as an expert in some elements of accident reconstruction, was not accepted as an expert in assessing speed.

As speed was the fundamental issue in the case, the crown had an uphill struggle to argue that it was entitled to try Piercy again without having the witnesses accepted as experts or call new evidence.

As a result, the panel of three judges allowed the appeal and rejected the crown’s application for a second trial. The judges said that the major reason for the decision was because speed was the critical factor and the crown did not have any evidence to prove the car was travelling at high speed.

Commenting on behalf of the appeal court panel, Sir Bernard Rix said that crown had “an extremely weak case” as it stood and any effort to have the second witness calculate the speed would be the same as having a new expert witness. Quoting from authorities, he explained why the crown could not be allowed a second chance to make good on earlier errors.

“In my judgment it would not be in the interests of justice to permit a retrial,” he added and the conviction was quashed.

During her trial Piercy, who had also been severely injured in the fatal crash, claimed she was not the driver but she had also argued that whoever was behind the wheel was not driving fast.

Edwards, who was seven months pregnant at the time, was one of three passengers in the car when the collision occurred. After the car hit a palm tree she was thrown from the vehicle and killed. Piercy and the front passenger were also very badly hurt, while one woman walked away from the wreck almost unscathed.

Piercy had persistently denied being the driver, stating that the owner of the car, Priscilla Smith, had been at the wheel when the accident happened. However, during the trial the court heard that Smith was cut out of the car at the scene from the front passenger side. The judge found that Piercy was the driver and found her guilty of causing death by dangerous driving.

Piercy was taken into custody immediately after she was sentenced but was bailed a short time later pending the appeal.

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