Motorist found incompetent to proceed with fatality case | PostIndependent.com

Motorist found incompetent to proceed with fatality case

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
John M. Walls
Staff Photo |

The Colorado Department of Human Services has issued a report that says an 89-year-old Carbondale man accused of causing the death of a motorcycle rider on Highway 82 is “not competent to proceed” with his misdemeanor case.

The basic finding of the report, coordinated through the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo, was mentioned Tuesday during a Pitkin County Court hearing at which defendant John M. Walls was present. Walls did not speak during the proceeding except to indicate that he was having difficulty hearing the courtroom officials. Along with a relative, he also sought to assure County Court Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely that he is no longer driving.

A Colorado State Patrol investigation determined that on Aug. 23, Walls was driving a 2003 Ford Focus eastbound near mile marker 22 in Pitkin County when his vehicle crossed over into the westbound lane and rammed into a motorcycle, a 2002 Ducati, driven by Patrick Dunn, 53, of Basalt.

The 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office has filed three charges against Walls: careless driving causing death and reckless endangerment, both misdemeanors, and a traffic-lane violation.

What will happen next with Walls’ case is not clear. Another hearing has been scheduled for Jan. 27. Prosecutor Andrea Bryan said in court that members of Dunn’s family want to attend the next proceeding out of concern for justice in the matter.

Bryan said the District Attorney’s Office will research its various options, one of which could include dismissal of the charges. Mental incompetency to proceed is “a complicated area of the law,” she said.

A victim’s impact statement, recently submitted to the court by Dunn’s younger brother, Robert G. Dunn, asks for a letter of apology and monetary restitution for expenses he has incurred since the tragedy.

It also goes a step farther.

“Mr. Walls needs to be committed to a home for challenged elderly people and his freedom should be taken away,” wrote Robert Dunn. “Prison would be my first choice but considering his age, I don’t want what life he has left to be behind bars.”

Also in the statement, Robert Dunn questioned why Walls had been allowed to drive. He expressed frustration that “because of Mr. Walls’ age and mental state he will never pay for the crimes he has committed. No one has taken any responsibility for his actions!”

Robert Dunn concluded by writing that his brother Patrick Dunn “was at the height of his life, (and had a) good job, friends and money. He had just started to blossom in life.”

The accident occurred around 5 p.m., about 90 minutes after persistent showers eased in the midvalley near Basalt. While Patrick Dunn was killed instantly, Walls was taken to Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs with minor injuries.

Bryan added that state police asked the Department of Motor Vehicles to conduct a driving test for Walls. Walls did not pass, which is why he currently does not have a valid driver’s license.

andre@aspentimes.com


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