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Death crash driver walks free from court

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Not guilty: Collisha Burch was found not guilty in Supreme Court of causing the death of mother of two Kerry Hollis by careless driving and another charge of causing her death by driving with a dangerous drug in her system (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

A female driver wept as she walked free from court last night after a jury cleared her of causing the death of a motorcyclist in a road crash.

Collisha Burch was found not guilty in Supreme Court of causing the death of mother of two Kerry Hollis by careless driving and another charge of causing her death by driving with a dangerous drug in her system.

Michael Hollis, Ms Hollis’s father-in-law, said he was “disappointed” with the outcome.

He added: “It’s kind of a bit of a travesty, I think all the evidence was there.”

Mr Hollis said his son has two young children who were left without a mother.

He added: “This is probably one of the worst decisions I have ever heard of in Bermuda. This is clear-cut and it’s a travesty.”

Mr Hollis added: “It just doesn’t make any sense, it makes no sense.”

Ms Hollis, who was 38 and from Southampton, died as a result of the collision on September 28 last year.

The unanimous verdict came after about three hours of deliberation by the jury. The court earlier heard Ms Hollis was riding a motorcycle east along Middle Road, near Five Star Island, and Ms Burch, 31, of Warwick, was driving a car in the opposite direction.

Larissa Burgess, for the prosecution, earlier told the court that the evidence showed Ms Burch’s car veered into the eastbound lane because the defendant was travelling too fast around a nearby bend and lost control.

She said: “Even the defendant’s evidence, there was speed involved despite her insisting 45km/h is not really speeding.

“She’s not been able to say in any specific way how she knew she was travelling at 45km/h, but you all know the speed limit is 35km/h.”

Ms Burgess added that the defence’s own expert witness said he did not see why a car would not be able to negotiate the turn at 35km/h, or even 45km/h.

The prosecutor also challenged Ms Burch’s claim that she had seen a bright light just before the collision but was unable to say where the light came from.

Ms Burgess said: “Even if you accept that this bright light did appear, you can think about how you would react to those circumstances.”

She also questioned why the defendant, on her own evidence, called family members immediately after the collision.

Ms Burgess said: “Ms Burch’s tells you that on her recollection after the collision, she got out of her car. She ran over to Ms Hollis, went back to her car, got her phone and started making calls to her brother, to her aunt, her family. Everybody but 911.”

Ms Burgess also directed the jury to the results of Ms Burch’s blood test, which found that she had used cannabis.

The prosecutor said: “She told you on the stand that she does or did in fact smoke cannabis. She said she smoked once or twice a week. She said she smoked three times per month. She then said she smoked when she was in the UK on her trip.”

But Ms Burgess also argued that the charge was that Ms Burch, 31, had a dangerous drug in her blood at the time of the crash, not that she was impaired.

Marc Daniels, Ms Burch’s defence lawyer, argued that the Crown’s case was full of holes and unanswered questions.

He said the police investigation had focused on Ms Burch without having considered Ms Hollis’s driving.

Mr Daniels said: “We don’t have any evidence of speed. We don’t know about how fast Ms Burch was travelling, nor do we have any evidence about how fast or slow Ms Hollis was going.”

He added: “Was Ms Hollis speeding at all? Not to cast aspersions, but the simple reality is we don’t know.

“What was the manner of her driving? We don’t know. Did she have lights on?

“We could have known if the police had gone to Barnes Corner, collected the CCTV footage and reviewed it.”

Mr Daniels questioned why police did not properly inspect Ms Hollis’s motorcycle. He said: “It’s almost as if the Crown said Ms Hollis was killed.It happened on her side of the road. She has to have been in the right and there’s no need to investigate her side of the collision.”

Mr Daniels also argued there was a fundamental disagreement between expert witnesses about the effect of driving too fast around a corner.

Sergeant Olasunkanmi Akinmola, a police crash expert, told the court that a vehicle would lose control if it travels above a “critical curve speed”.

But an expert witness for the defence said the vehicle would travel to the outside of the curve in those circumstances while Ms Burch was alleged to have travelled to the inside of the curve.

Mr Daniels said that while Ms Burch had cannabis in her system, there was no evidence before the court that she was impaired by the drug or that it contributed to the collision.

He added the crash was an accident that took place at a frequent accident spot when conditions were dark and wet.

Mr Daniels said: “It seems like a case that has been created with not too much.”

It is The Royal Gazette’s policy not to allow comments on stories regarding court cases. As we are legally liable for any slanderous or defamatory comments made on our website, this move is for our protection as well as that of our readers.

Unanswered questions: Marc Daniels, representing the defendant (File photograph)