Seconds after the verdict, sobs and screams resounded through the courtroom in St. John’s.
“Oh my God!” Kimberley Clowe shouted from the back of the court after Natasha Stapleton was found not guilty on all charges.
Stapleton had been at the wheel when Clowe’s daughter, 23-year-old Kayla Reid, was thrown 35 metres clear of the car and into the woods after the car went off the road on Blackhead Road in St. John’s.
Reid, who had a young daughter, died of a broken neck.
Stapleton had been charged with dangerous driving causing death and two counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm after the single-car accident on Oct. 3, 2009.
Clowe had been a fixture in the courtroom throughout the trial, holding a picture of her daughter and becoming visibly emotional at times.
But on Thursday, when Judge David Orr handed down his decision, Clowe could no longer hold her emotions in check.
“You can’t even say you’re sorry,” she shouted to Stapleton, who quickly left the courtroom in tears after the proceedings.
“You can’t even say you’re f---ing sorry.”
"There’s the justice system for you,” her husband, Tyrone Clowe, added.
The couple then yelled at reporters to go away, saying they’ve been through 14 months of hell.
Two other passengers, Selina Thomlyn and Heather Hiscock, also hurriedly left the courtroom.
Both young women were seriously injured in the accident.
Thomlyn, who had been in the front seat, suffered bleeding on the brain, a collapsed lung, a bruised heart and kidney, optic nerve damage, a mangled right arm which required extensive surgery, and serious ligament damage in her knees.
She still wears an eye patch and has trouble remembering the incident.
Hiscock — who was in the backseat with Reid — briefly lost consciousness after the car crashed, but managed to climb up the embankment and flag down a motorist.
She testified during the trial that Stapleton was driving up to 120 km/h at one point.
Stapleton, who had only had her driver’s licence for a month, told the police they were going for a drive to Cape Spear when her earring got caught in her hair. She said she flicked her hair to dislodge it and her glasses fell off.
Police determined the car was travelling at 127 km/h when Stapleton lost control. It swerved across the road, hit a guard rail and went
airborne, flying down over an embankment, snapping off trees and coming to a smashing halt in the woods.
The judge said, under the circumstances, speed alone was not enough to constitute dangerous driving.
“I’m satisfied she was speeding,” Orr said, “but there was no other evidence that she operated the vehicle inappropriately in any other way.”
He said while Stapleton is “undoubtedly” civilly responsible, there was no evidence to suggest she was criminally responsible.
“Oh my God!” - Kimberley Clowe, mother of victim Kayla Reid, shouted from the back of the court
He said Stapleton had a momentary lapse of attention and she was driving a vehicle with a number of mechanical defects which she did not know about.
Defects in vehicle
An expert testified during the trial that those defects — which included a broken left sway bar, an inoperable anti-lock brake system and an under-inflated front tire — may have contributed to the accident.
Defence lawyer Randy Piercey told reporters it was one of the most heartbreaking cases he’s ever been involved in, with no winner.
“Natasha took off. There was a lot of drama in the courtroom,” he said.
“How could you feel good? Obviously, you’re relieved, but there’s no good about this case at all.”
He said it was difficult for everyone.
“Every day at 10 o’clock, people started to cry and they didn’t stop crying until 4:30 p.m.,” he said.
“Twenty-eight years in (legal practice) and I’ll always remember this case.
“Because it was a young girl in a situation that many, many people have been in — driving too fast — and had an accident and somebody died.
“We all drive too fast, on occasion, and are lucky enough to get home.”