Judge hears arguments in Silt vehicular homicide case
A district court chief judge heard arguments in Glenwood Springs Tuesday, during a motions hearing for David Cavaliere, a man accused of vehicular homicide in a case that killed two young motorcyclists on U.S. 6 in Silt last year.
The March 20, 2017, crash just after 7 p.m. killed Eduardo Medrano, 21, and Nathan Russo, 22, at the intersection of North First Avenue and Highway 6.
Witnesses said neither the motorcyclists nor Cavaliere had been driving erratically, nor had they been speeding before the time of the incident.
A witness, who had been traveling behind Cavaliere for quite some time, said he had used his left blinker before starting to turn onto First Avenue.
She says in court documents that she saw the two motorcyclists approaching Cavaliere before he turned, and remembers hoping that either the motorcyclists or Cavaliere would stop.
All of a sudden, she told officials, Cavaliere turned into the intersection, and collided with the two young men, throwing them from their bikes.
Cavaliere maintains he never saw the motorcyclists coming.
He says his airbags abruptly deployed, causing him to collide with the two motorcyclists, who he says didn’t have their headlights on at the time of the crash. An investigation later found that the two motorcyclists did use headlights.
During a motions hearing Tuesday, attorneys asked 9th District Chief Judge James Berkley Boyd to consider various exhibits to be used as evidence during an upcoming jury trial, which hasn’t been scheduled yet.
Cavaliere’s attorney, Molly Owens, asked Boyd to consider allowing Medrano’s lab tests during trial, saying it would prove he had 7.2 nanograms of THC in his system, and was impaired at the time of the crash.
She added, he was riding in a “staggered pattern,” and failed to respond to the events of the accident, not specifying further.
Jeff Cheney, district attorney and prosecutor in the case, responded, saying witnesses said there was no time for the motorcyclists to respond, adding a motion to admit Medrano’s blood tests is an attack on a deceased victim.
He said officials found skid marks from Medrano’s bike, concluding he did in fact respond to the events. Cheney told Judge Boyd that both bikers were in their own lanes, traveling the appropriate speed limit, and that, “This has nothing to do with whether or not Medrano had THC in his blood.”
He asked Boyd not to admit the blood tests for a jury’s consideration, as it would divert the attention from the real cause of the accident, adding ironically, Cavaliere was found to have an open, half-empty bottle of Fireball Whiskey, near his center console, after the incident.
Owens told Boyd she plans to call an expert witness, who specializes in analyzing how drugs and alcohol impact driving ability and reaction time.
Boyd did not make an immediate decision, saying the motion would be revisited at the next court hearing.
Owens also motioned to advise a jury that neither biker had a helmet on, a point she said was relevant, since one of the deaths was caused by head trauma.
Cheney said there’s no law in Colorado requiring a biker to wear a helmet, adding the cyclists also suffered other injuries, not just head trauma.
Boyd, again, declined to enter a specific order on that particular motion, and on another, in which Owens asked to exclude a comment Cavaliere made to a witness on scene.
Allegedly, Cavaliere said to a witness, “The motorcyclists were buzzing him and he was going to scare them,” a comment Boyd said is “more in the nature of confession,” a comment he’d allow in court because it measures Cavaliere’s mental state.
There’s also still discussion over whether or not Boyd will allow jurors to visit the scene of the crash during trial, or if he will only admit crime scene photos as evidence.
Cheney said photos don’t do the crime scene justice, pushing for eyewitnesses to describe events to jurors on scene.
Boyd said traffic delays, road closures, and proper use of trial time, were all initial concerns in considering the request.
Logistically, it would be difficult for a court reporter to hear and accurately record testimony on a highway, and the scene would likely be different, no matter how much it were emulated.
All motions Boyd didn’t address Tuesday will be revisited at the next hearing the afternoon of July 10.
On the day of the crash, Colorado State Patrol and the Silt Police Department determined witness statements were consistent with damage to the vehicles.
Police say Cavaliere had been at Harvey Gap State Park the day of the crash, and that his insurance had been expired for almost a year before the incident.
When officers tried to make contact with Cavaliere the next day, to hear his version of events, they say he was “uncooperative and evasive.”
He refused to speak with officers and wouldn’t provide proof of insurance when asked, according to investigators. He also refused to go into the Silt Police Department for questioning and subsequently, a warrant was ordered for his arrest on March 23, 2017. He was originally held on $5,000 bond.
He was re-arrested in September 2017, for failing to appear at a court hearing. He is in Garfield County Jail, held on $15,000 bond and is charged with two counts of careless driving causing a death, failure to yield while turning left, having an open alcoholic beverage, and other traffic-related charges.
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