CHATHAM, Ont. — The Quebec trucker accused of killing a police officer after a 2000 traffic accident near here, was acquitted on June 17.
All of the charges against Terry DeMerchant, 28, were found by Ontario Superior Court Justice John Kerr to be without merit.
DeMerchant’s tractor-trailer was heading along Hwy. 401 near Chatham on June 7, 2000, when it collided with Sgt. Marg Eve’s cruiser, which the court heard was parked approximately 1.1 metres onto the busy highway.
DeMerchant had faced five counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm and one of dangerous driving causing the death in relation to the collision ending Eve’s life.
“I am not satisfied that a reasonable person would expect a vehicle to be stopped in the travelled portion of that highway,” Kerr surmised. “There was nothing that could reasonably be done by the accused to avoid colliding with Eve’s vehicle.”
DeMerchant reportedly smiled as the Judge made the pronouncement, and then bowed his head and covered his eyes before being enveloped by his brother’s arms.
DeMerchant indicated to local media there is a very good chance a civil case may follow.
“Yeah, it’s a great possibility,” DeMerchant says citing a possible case of malicious prosecution. He also apologized to the dead officer’s family.
“I’m sorry that what happened came about. But I want to be able to let go of my feelings of any responsibility because it was never my fault,” he explains.
The trucker’s defence lawyer, Dave Jacklin, was a little more blunt in his appraisal of the verdict.
“Like it or not, the majority of witnesses said it was an extremely dangerous situation to have a police cruiser out in the marked lane,” he says. “(There’s) no question there should be an inquest. You have major highway safety and police issues that should be addressed and an inquest would probably have been the best forum to decide this in the first place.”
During testimony, provincial police constables Patti DeBresser and Brad Sakalo, who were both seriously injured in this crash, explained Eve was following police training by parking her cruiser on the road, as part of a “high-risk takedown.”
In the initial months following the accident, truckers running the 401 along the Windsor-London corridor reported experiencing revenge-style law enforcement to Truck News. While no tangible evidence exists to confirm or deny this fact, the trucker’s acquittal may yet lead to a staunch, police-versus-truckers mindset on the busy international gateway.
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