Defense pushes on
LEWISTOWN – The defense attorney representing a man charged with vehicular homicide while under the influence of alcohol, was in court on Thursday with his client to address several outstanding pre-trial motions.
In November, Centre County attorney Joseph Amendola filed the motions on behalf of his client, 42-year-old Carl D. Briggs who is also facing several other related charges pertaining to the death of 64 year-old Bruce E. Kauffman Jr. and his 63-year-old wife Judy K. Kauffman.
Briggs was allegedly involved in the fatal accident on Oct. 8, 2011, along U.S. 22/522 near Jacks Mountain Road. Briggs was driving a 1998 Mercury Mountaineer and at about 4:30 p.m. hit a motorcycle driven by Kauffman nearly head on, police said. Kauffman and his wife both died at the scene of the accident.
Police spoke with a witness at the scene of the accident that claimed Briggs was attempting to pass their vehicle on the left side, colliding with the motorcycle moments later. The witness tried to slow down so Briggs could get out of the motorcycle’s lane of travel, court documents indicate.
Briggs told police he had been at a friend’s house drinking beers, but he was not drunk and agreed to have a blood-alcohol test done at Lewistown Hospital, according to documents.
According to court documents, Briggs’ blood test came back with a blood-alcohol content of .077, which is not in excess of the legal limit. However, an expert for the prosecution indicated Briggs’ BAC at the time of the accident was between .08 and .1084, which is in excess of the legal limit.
During court proceedings on Thursday, Amendola withdrew several motions from his petition to the court. However, a motion to suppress statements his client may have given to Pennsylvania State Police Troopers and EMT personnel remains in play.
In Amendola’s motion, he cites his client’s diabetic medical condition, which he contends impaired Briggs’ ability to understand what was transpiring after the accident.
Assistant District Attorney Dave Barron, who is prosecuting the case, said “this could be a trial of (medical) experts” if the defendant’s alleged diabetic condition remains a focal point in moving forward with the case.
Two people were called to testify by Barron, an EMT who was on duty for McVeytown Ambulance on the day of the accident, and State Trooper Stephen Griffith, the first law enforcement official on the scene that day.
Nick S. Price testified he was directed by others at the scene of the accident to Briggs, who identified himself as one of the people involved in the accident.
“No obvious defects, no injuries that I could see … I did smell an odor of alcohol,” Price said.
“He did say he had a couple of beers, but wasn’t drunk,” Price added.
Price said Briggs told him he was diabetic and felt as if his blood sugar may be dropping, as a result Briggs was given an “oral glucose” dose in an attempt to get his blood sugar up to a normal level.
Price said he gave Briggs two doses of oral glucose and was having a normal conversation with him regarding the accident.
Price testified he advised Briggs he needed to go to the hospital for an examination, and eventually he agreed.
“At that time he slumped over and became unresponsive … he came in and out of consciousness,” Price said.
In addition, Price testified Briggs’ mood changed throughout the trip to the hospital, fluctuating from “cool, calm and collected” to “agitated” and “emotionally distraught,” which he described as being consistent with a diabetic episode.
Lastly, Griffith took the stand and testified Briggs smelled of alcohol, had blood-shot eyes and his speech was slowed.
Griffith said Briggs stated he had been drinking at a friend’s house and was on his way home.
Griffith testified he asked Briggs if he would submit to a blood-alcohol test, to which he said Briggs agreed.
Other motions attached to Amendola’s petition which were not addressed on Thursday and may have to be revisited at a future hearing include a motion to suppress chemical and blood test results.
According to court documents, Amendola cites a number of issues with the blood tests including a potential breach in maintaining the chain of custody of the defendant’s blood sample, which may have been mixed up with someone else’s blood test or contaminated at some stage in the process.
Judge Rick Williams did not immediately rule on any of the outstanding motions.
Briggs remains free on $150,000 bail. No trial date has been set.