A prosecutor told a Lane County jury on Wednesday that there's no doubt that a Eugene bar manager was intoxicated when police arrested him after his vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian last year in Springfield.
"This is a very simple case," Lane County Deputy District Attorney Jessica Warner told jurors after trial testimony revealed that a blood test measured Kiyallah Heatherstone's blood alcohol level at 0.16 percent on the night that his car hit 24-year-old Springfield resident Travis Alverson at the intersection of the Highway 126 Expressway and 52nd Street. Alverson died at the scene.
Under Oregon law, a driver is automatically presumed to be under the influence of alcohol if his or her blood alcohol level is 0.08 percent or greater. Heatherstone's alleged level was double the presumed "legal limit."
But Heatherstone's attorney, Laura Fine Moro, said the blood test produced an unreliable result. She told the jurors that they had heard plenty of evidence Wednesday to show that Heatherstone was not impaired by alcohol on the night of the May 25, 2013, crash.
"There is simply no way that test is accurate," Moro said in her closing arguments.
Moro asserted that the state police laboratory in Springfield, where the test was conducted, isn't using "best practices" according to current research, and she questioned the credentials of the forensic scientist who runs the lab.
She also reminded jurors that Heatherstone's business partner at the Rye restaurant in Eugene, Wendy Watson, testified that Heatherstone did not appear to be impaired when he left work a short time before the collision.
Springfield police officer Mathew Bohman, meanwhile, testified that he had no doubt that Heatherstone was intoxicated on the night of the wreck. But Bohman acknowledged under cross-examination from Moro that Heatherstone did not have slurred speech or show a number of other signs of impairment that intoxicated drivers often display.
Police said the 34-year-old Heatherstone, a co-owner and bar manager at Rye, told an investigator that he had one beer at work before the crash. A state Liquor Control Commission inspector, however, testified that Heatherstone told him he had consumed two drinks in the hours before the collision.
Warner told jurors that it's Heatherstone -- not the blood test result -- that shouldn't be trusted.
Heatherstone "is not being truthful to anyone about what he had to drink that night," Warner said in court.
Springfield police initially arrested Heatherstone on preliminary charges of intoxicated driving and first-degree manslaughter. But prosecutors declined to file criminal homicide charges because they said they did not think they could prove that Heatherstone was negligent or reckless, or had intentionally tried to kill someone.
Police said they found evidence that Alverson had been suicidal before his death. Alverson's family has disputed that notion.
Jurors deliberated about an hour Wednesday without returning a verdict. Deliberations resume this morning.
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