Enough reasonable doubt to acquit accused drunk-driving dad: lawyer

Rosie Mullaley
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He didn’t take his children to the hospital, left his car at the scene of an accident, went home and drank beer afterwards.

It may not be the typical reaction after a car crash, but Patrick Charles O’Grady didn’t break the law, his lawyer argued Friday.

“Is he perfect? No, he’s not perfect,” Michelle Elliott said during closing arguments in O’Grady’s trial at Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John’s.

“Whether or not (what he did) was moral, that’s not the question. The question is whether he was impaired at the time of the accident.”

O’Grady is charged with impaired driving causing bodily harm, failing the breathalyzer and dangerous driving causing bodily harm.

The Portugal Cove man is accused of driving drunk with his three children in the vehicle. Around 2 p.m. on Aug. 1, 2010, O’Grady was behind the wheel of his older-style Honda CRV, driving on Portugal Cove Road, near Indian Meal Line, when he lost control and swerved off the road while making a turn on the winding road.

The car slammed into a pillar on the side of the road and spun back into a residential driveway before coming to a sudden stop. The car was a write-off, and was later crushed by the company that removed it from the site.

O’Grady’s nine-year-old daughter, and his two sons, ages 11 and 12, were shaken by the incident. The girl was visibly upset, crying loudly. She suffered cuts and bruises, along with a neck injury. The boys were relatively uninjured. A witness at the scene said O’Grady had been speeding, while another witness, who gave them a ride back to their house, noticed a strong smell of beer coming from O’Grady.

But O’Grady testified Thursday that he drank three non-alcoholic beers before the crash, but had three alcoholic beers when he got home because he was stressed.

Elliott pointed out that non-alcoholic beer, as scent-tested by the judge in court, has a strong ale smell and could have been mistaken for alcohol.

She also said police didn’t administer the breathalyzer on O’Grady until two hours after the accident.

O’Grady said his children told him they were OK when he asked, which is why he didn’t think he needed to call an ambulance.

“Some would have him convicted on moral guilt rather than fact,” Elliott said.

O’Grady said he was only driving at 55 km/h and that his car had a faulty tire, which he believes caused him to lose control of the vehicle.

Elliott said that may be true, but pointed out there was no way of determining the actual cause of the accident, since the vehicle was destroyed by the towing company a day or so after the crash.

“All of these factors together raise reasonable doubt,” she said.

Even Justice Wayne Dymond questioned why police didn’t order an inspection.

“What I don’t understand is if police laid charges of drunk driving, why wasn’t the vehicle impounded until the trial took place?” the judge said.

“But the vehicle was destroyed after the accident. That seems a bit unreasonable to me.”

Crown prosecutor Jason House couldn’t explain why an inspection wasn’t ordered, but he said there is plenty of evidence to indicate O’Grady is guilty of the charges.

First, he said, was O’Grady’s unusual behaviour after the crash. He questioned why he didn’t consider taking his children to get checked out by a doctor, noting it’s “the duty of a parent to ensure the safety of their children.”

House also said drinking beer afterwards was an odd thing to do.

“The accused assumed the police would show up at his house (since there was an accident), but he still chose to drink three tins of beer,” he said.

“It seems abnormal behaviour.”

House added it “goes directly to the accused’s credibility.”

The witnesses, on the other hand were credible, he said.

He also pointed out that O’Grady knew the area well and knew there was a ball field there. Therefore, he should have driven with more caution.

Dymond will render his verdict Dec. 16.


rgillingham@thetelegram.com; Twitter: @TelyCourt

Organizations: Jason House

Geographic location: Portugal Cove Road

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