WEST JORDAN A 3rd District judge has taken under advisement a motion to dismiss a negligent homicide charge filed against a Taylorsville police officer.
Joseph Corbett was charged with the class B misdemeanor following a crash at the intersection of 4700 S. Redwood Road on Feb. 7, 2007. Corbett was driving with his lights and siren on while responding to help other officers involved in a high-speed chase. He was trying to get ahead of the chase to lay tire spikes.
About 12:40 a.m., Corbett collided with a vehicle driven by 27-year-old John Douglas of Tooele, who was killed. The defense says Douglas was driving with the painkiller Tramadol in his system and was text-messaging while driving. Prosecutors have tried to have the Tramadol and text messaging evidence restricted during the upcoming trial.
The state argues that Corbett was not following the accepted standard for emergency driving in Utah. But defense attorney Ed Brass contends there is no established standard.
Utah lawmakers passed a law for emergency driving a couple of years ago that said the policies of individual police departments had to "conform with the rule established by the Department of Public Safety."
The problem, said Brass, is DPS hasn't adapted a minimum standard yet. DPS officials say they have one drafted but were still in the process of having it finalized.
Monday, Brass presented his oral arguments for dismissing the case before Judge Robert Adkins.
"We don't have a baseline of standard in this case for comparison," he said. "In the absence of a standard, I don't know how the state can prove criminal negligence. There is nothing for (Corbett) to grossly deviate from, so it should be dismissed."
A trial would result in a long parade of law enforcers from different agencies, each explaining their emergency driving policies, and a jury trying to figure out which standard is the one they should accept as "standard," Brass said. The end result would be "chaos," he said.
The state, however, contends there is a standard already outlined in the Utah Code Book. Part of that standard requires officers to slow down as necessary and clear an intersection before proceeding.Adkins took the case under advisement and said he would issue a written decision soon. A four-day trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 19.
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