Monday, January 10, 2011

Trimet trial of the century-from Joe Rose blog

9:55 a.m.
This is a bench trial. Deputy District Attorney Chuck Sparks has just outlined the charges for Judge Stephen K. Bushong.

The burden of proof is "a preponderance of the evidence."

The six charges against Day are two counts of careless driving resulting in the death of vulnerable road users, one count of careless driving resulting in the serious injury of a pedestrian, careless driving, illegal left turn and failure to stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk.
10:15 a.m.

Check back for updates from the first day of what a scheduled four-day trial.
Sparks expects to call most of the “available” people saw the crash. He submitted images from an on-board video camera that recorded the collision and a DVD of the recording. It doesn’t appear that the video will be show in court.

Sparks is recounting the string of events leading up to the tragedy.
10:20 a.m.
The group of two men and three women had just had a “moderate evening” at Harvey's Comedy Club, with far more laughter than drinks. Only two member sof the group had alcohol in their systems -- .01 and .02 percent blood alcohol content, according to tests.

“Even if they had high (blood alcholol content),” Sparks said, “they were pedestrians in a crosswalk.”

Leaving the club, the group on Northwest Gliasn Street was laughing and talking as they walked west toward Ryan Hammel's car parked on the west side of Broadway.

The group waited for the walk signal and began to cross Broadway.
10:25 p.m.
After making a courtesy stop for a passenger on the far curb of Glisan, Day waited for the green light and accelerated, illegally straddling two lanes as she turned left onto Broadway at 10 to 12 mph, Sparks said.

The survivors “will tell you that they heard nothing -- no braking, no honking -- and suddenly there were lights” from the bus.

Ryan Hammel was struck by the front of the bus and landed on his back. Sale and Gittings were also hit head-on and went under the bus. Sale was crushed by the front right wheel, Sparks said.

The left side of the turning bus hit JeneƩ Hammel, knocking her down. She was then pinned under the left rear dual wheels. Jamie Hammel, who was walking next to JeneƩ Hammel, was hit by the side of the bus but was thrown clear.
10:45 p.m.

Sparks will call Jamie Hammell to testify this morning.
10:47 p.m.
Sparks says Day violated TriMet standard operating procedure because she made a courtesy stop at a stop that wasn't part of her route.

Sparks said Day has repeatedly claimed that she didn't see the five people walking in the crosswalk before she hit them. Several witnesses, he said, will testify that they were clearly in the crosswalk. 

In the end, he said, the state will prove that Day was negligent. "Most importantly," Sparks said, “she failed to see what was right in front of her.”

10:50 a.m.

"The defendant was negligent in her operation of that bus and the taking the lives of those people."

End of Sparks' opening statement.

Days' attorney, Michael Greenlick of Portland, has began his opening statement by saying the state needs to show "evidence of dangerousness."

Greenlick said he will show that Day "was not driving in a dangerous or negligent manner."

11:00 a.m.

It appears that Greenlick will rely heavily on concerns about blind spots and "the blind spot shadow" of the model of bus that Day was driving on the night of Apr. 24.

Day was hired in Nov. 27 as a full-time TriMet bus driver. Before that, she drove a school bus and worked for 20 years as a chef without a mark on her driving record, Greenlick said.

“This job was her life, she loved it,” he said.

She turned down a shift earlier in night because she wouldn’t get enough sleep between shifts, he said.

On April 24, Day clocked into her shift to drive the No. 9 route at 3 p.m. She was scheduled to get off at 12:31 a.m. Until the crash just before midnight, the shift was uneventful.

Headed west on Glisan, the lone passenger on the bus, a 67-year-old man headed home from work at the World Trade Center, asked Day for a courtesy stop.
Night time stops at regular stopos for "vulnerable" passengers is "strongly encouraged" by TriMet, he said. 

He said Day scanned her mirrors in a particular order and left the north curb of Glisan right before Broadway after the light turned green, turning left.

"You’ll learn she took the turn at a reasonable speed," he said. Although trainers teach drivers to go 5 mph during turns, he said, the vast majority in the city happen at 10 mph.
11:40 a.m.

Ryan Hammell, who was hit by the front of the bus before flying into a parked car, is on the stand.

Hammell said Day was obviously in shock after the collision. Her window was open.

Ryan Hammell saw his sister being "pinched" under the back driver's tire. He ran up to Day's open window. He said he reached through the open driver's window and punched the driver once in the shoulder, saying that she needed to reverse the bus.

He realized it was making the situation worse for Sale, he told Day to stop.  
11:50 a.m.
Witness Travis Fine, who was in traffic, headed west on Glisan in northern lane, said there appeared to be nothing wrong with the lighting in the intersection. The defense has claimed that "uneven" lighting contributed to Day's inability to see the pedestrians.
11:55 a.m.

Fine said Day seemed confused after hitting the five pedestrians and didn't know what to do with several people yelling at her. He recalled one person throwing a phone at the bus.

12:10 p.m.

Based on Greenlick's questioning, it appears the he is trying to raise some doubts that all of the victims were in the crosswalk when they were hit. There is no evidence of thst at this point. All witnesses who saw the crash say the pedestrians were clearly in the crosswalk.

Jamie Hammel's testimony

Hammel is married to Ryan. She said the group was supposed to go to an earlier comedy show at Harvey's but it was sold out. So, they opted to go to the later show.

"I had one drink. It was the most that anyone at the table had." 

"Jenee and I were talking," walking at a “usual pace," she said. When the arrived at the intersection, the signal said "Don't Walk." She said the group stopped until it said walk. Ryan went first.

As she and Jenee stepped into the crosswalk, "she switched sides with me."

Sparks asked where the pair were located when the bus hit them. Jamie Hammel: “We were close to the middle of the crosswalk, but we weren’t there yet.”

Sparks: "Did you have any sign or sound that told you that trouble was coming?"

Jamie Hammel: "No."

She recalled looking toward Jenee. "I remember seeing something there, but I didn’t know what it was, Next thing I know, I was being hit."

Hammel said she spun and landed on he right side. She didn’t know what hit her. "It only became apparent bus when I sat up and saw the bus," she said.

Sparks: "When you got up, what did you see?"

Hammel's lip began to quiver and tears ran down her face. 

“I saw Jenee under the back tire and she was being drug by the bus,” she said.

A heartbreaking chorus of sniffles are coming from the victims' families sitting in the courtroom. 
12:12 p.m.
Two witnesses who shared a table or were sitting next to the group at Harvey's said the group was sober and just having a good time before the show ended. No one saw them doing anything reckless on the street. At this point, there should be no doubt that those are the facts.

12:15 p.m.
Another witness who was in traffic and saw the bus make the turn, and was caught the chaotic aftermath, is testifying.

Day, who has kept her gaze fixed on the witness stand, not even turning to her lawyer, has begun to cry. She is wiping her eyes and cheeks with a tissue.

12:25 p.m.Luke Cordo, who was walking with his girlfriend behind the group of pedestrians after the comedy show got out, said the light "isn't perfect" in the intersection. He said it appeared that "under the condition" the bus was going too fast for the turn.  

12:30 p.m.Under cross examination from Greenlick, Cordo said pedestrians were wearing dark clothing.

1:41 p.m.First witness this afternoon: Peter Leiss, the World Trade Center security guard who asked for the courtesy stop before the crash. He was the only passenger on the bus before the crash.

2 p.m.
Leiss testified that he stepped off the bus, crossed the street and started to walk north toward the Broadway Bridge. He didn’t know there had been a crash until he saw his photo, captured by a bus surveillance camera, a few days later on OregonLive.

Leiss said he doesn’t usually take the Line 9, but it was the only bus he could catch that night. He had missed his usual bus.

He said he asked Day what her last stop was before she looped through downtown again, but didn’t ask her to pull over to a Line 17 stop on the north curb of Glisan. He said he would have been OK with getting let off at the first stop after the bus turned onto Broadway.

He said he didn’t know why Day picked that corner.

Leiss said there was enough light for him to see the group of friends walking up Glisan from Harvey's Comedy Club, but the intersection seemed to be poorly lit in his opinion.

Leiss said he heard the bus leaving the unscheduled stop. A block away, near the central post office, he heard people shouting. He turned around. “I noticed the bus was stopped,” he said. “I assumed it had hit a parked car.”

He didn’t hear about the tragedy until a few days later, when a coworker reading OregonLive asked, “Is that you?”

He walked over and looked at the computer screen. There was a photo released by police of the last passenger riding the Line 9 that night.

Yep, he said. “Looks like they’re after me.” He said contacted police immediately.

2:10 p.m.
Witness Clarence Moncreed (he is very soft-spoken, so we'll need to double check the spelling) was in his car, headed north on Broadway, and witnessed the collision. "I honestly thought she wasn’t paying attention because the bus did not slow down," he said.

At the time, he thought there were only three pedestrians.

Under cross examination: Moncreed said the bus turn looked fine until it hit the people in the crosswalk.

Greenlick: Is the crosswalk too dark?

Moncreed: "I think that crosswalk is too dark."

2:25 p.m.
Sean Murray, who was walking behind the group of friends after leaving Harvey's, said they were definitely in the crosswalk.

2:30 p.m.
The parade of witnesses who saw at least part of the crash continues. District Attorney is asking essentially the same questions: Were the victims in the crosswalk? Do you know which lane the bus turned from? Do you have any sense of the speed of the bus as it turned? Did you hear any braking?

James Queen, who was walking behind the group out of Harvey's said it was "normal downtown Portland lighting." The bus, he said, seemed to be going 10 to 15 mph. He saw the bus his Jenee Hammel and drug her under the rear wheels.

"I don't recall hearing any braking until (Hammel) got hit," Queen said. 

3 p.m.
Linda Seagraves of TriMet is leading Judge Bushong through a tutorial of the eight different angles from the bus video cameras, which shoot mirror images (“A left turn would appear as a right turn,” she said).

The images are dark and choppy, but Seagraves is able to pause the video from external-facing cameras at key moments. A camera at the rear of the bus caught sparks caused by the bus hitting a piece of Jamie Hammel’s jewelry. Another camera captured the moment Ryan Hammel was thrown against a parked car from the front of the bus.

Save for a woman sobbing in the back row, a chilling quiet has seized the courtroom.

3:30 p.m.
Portland police Officer Jason Straub, one of the first officers responding to the crash, said Day was upset, shaking, thinking out loud and complaining about having shortness of breath after the incident.

Straub testified that the crash team radioed and asked him to keep Day at the scene. He said he and the driver sat in his patrol car, having “small talk.” He testified that he told her that she shouldn’t make comments to him about the crash while they waited.

Still, he said, she made two statements: “I did not see them” and “I was paying attention to the other people in the crosswalk.”

3:40 p.m.
Sandi Day's attorney has abruptly asked for a brief recess in the middle of Portland police Officer Ron Hoesly's testimony from the stand. Day just walked out of the courtroom. She appears shaken, about to break down.

3:45 p.m.

Day has returned to the courtroom. Hoesly has resumed his testimony.

He said Day told him that she didn’t want to drive the Line 9 route but picked it up for another driver. She said she usually works an afternoon shift, he said.

He said she didn’t appear confused or disoriented, just distraught. “I would best describe it as maybe in a state of shock,” Hoesly said. “She was sitting there. She was fairly quiet. Honestly, I can’t remember any other emotion than that.”

Hoesly said Day told him she had no idea that she had hit the pedestrian until people began surrounding the bus, shouting at her, and a man punched her in the face and the side of the body through the open driver’s window. (Note: Earlier, Ryan Hammel, Jenee Hammel’s brother, testified that he hit her just in the shoulder.)

The man, Day told the officer, insisted that she back up. She did, about a foot.

11:50 a.m.

Cross examination time.

Greenlick is trying to pick apart Kurronen's testimony. He asks if there is any way the view of the bus cameras is distorted. "I don't think they are distorted," the officer answered. "I think they are accurate."

Greenlick is pointing to a frame in the video from an exterior camera that he says shows the bus actually straddling the line separating the north and south -- right and left -- lanes of westbound Glisan.

Kurronen said he doesn't see it the same way. Greenlick is going through several frames, asking the officer if he thinks the images are any way distorted. Kurronen isn't budging from his testimony.

1:50 p.m.

Stephanie Rilatos, the witness whose testimony that some of the pedestrians were walking outside of the crosswalk and acting intoxicated, has returned to the Multnomah County Courthouse. She is in the hallway outside the courtroom.

Deputy District Attorney Chuck Sparks started the day by challenging Rilatos' credibility, presenting evidence that she is related to a TriMet employee, dating a TriMet driver and has applied for a job at the agency.

It's unclear if Rilatos will be called back to the witness stand today.

 2:10 p.m.

Day’s attorney Michael Greenlick continues to cross examine Officer Peter Kurronen, the chief crash investigator, about his conclusions.

Under questioning, Kurronen said the crosswalk was well-lit, but trees under streetlights south of the Glisan intersection could have created tricky shadows, requiring a driver’s eyes to adjust.

The officer also said that the pedestrians were clearly dressed in dark clothing, save for Ryan Hammel’s white sneakers and a tan jacket worn by one of the friends in the group.

Greenlick continues to press Kurronen on the side mirror and so-called “A-pillar” between the windshield and driver’s window. Kurronen repeats that he believes that they were obstructions like any other driver, especially professional drivers, are expected to deal with on the roads.

Kurronen testified that Day told him that she didn’t know the pedestrians were in the crosswalk until “they were right in front of her.”
2:30 p.m.

Some readers have asked what fines Day faces if convicted of all six traffic violations.

If our math is correct, the answer is about $2,000. That is, if Judge Stephen K. Bushong doesn’t combine some of the fines. But -- and this is a big but -- convictions for careless driving resulting in the death or serious entry of a vulnerable road user also requires the completion of a driving safety course and between 100 and 200 hours of community service.

If those conditions are not met, the offender faces a $12,000 penalty for each conviction and suspension of all driver’s licenses.

Here’s the ORS.
2:30 p.m.

Kuronnen said Day told him she didn’t know she was about to hit the pedestrians until she saw a flash of a woman’s hair right in front of her. Based on evidence at the scene, the officer said the bus likely continued moving two and half seconds after impact.

“There was no reaction at least until the pedestrians were hit,” Kurronen said.

Sparks is questioning the officer again.

Kurronen testified once again that the intersection was “well-lit.” He said he returned to the crash scene several times during the night and day.

Sparks asked the officer if drivers are responsible for watching the entire crosswalk, not just the portion in front of them. The entire crosswalk, Kurronen said.

“So,” Sparks said, “Those people were there to be seen is that correct?”

Officer Kurronen: “Yes.”
2:35 p.m.

Sparks has called Rilatos back to the stand. However, she has reportedly left the courtroom to move her car to a new parking spot.

The judge has called a brief recess.

3:10 p.m.

That was quick.

Rilatos is the only trial witness so far to say some of the victims were walking outside the crosswalk. She also is the only person called to the stand to say the group of friends acted like they had too much to drink the night of the tragedy. She is still under oath.

Sparks asked her if she was related to anyone who has works at TriMent. “My sister works for dispatch” and was employed by TriMet on the night of the crash, she testified.

Sparks asked her if she was dating a TriMet employee. Yes, she said, “Lance Lawrence. He’s a supervisor. … He checks fares … but I don’t know if he necessarily supervises bus drivers.”

Sparks asked her if she has applied for a job at TriMet.

Rilatos said she is unemployed and has applied for a job at TriMet, among other applications.

Sparks: “End of questioning.”
3:15 p.m.

The state rests.

Greenlick, Day’s attorney, calls his first witness -- TriMet trainer Stewart Jolliffe.

Jolliffe is taking the court through the steps of becoming a TriMet operator.

3:15 p.m.

The state rests.

Greenlick, Day’s attorney, calls his first witness -- TriMet trainer Stewart Jolliffe.

Jolliffe is taking the court through the steps of becoming a TriMet operator.

4:05 p.m.

Jolliffe, who evaluated Day on her routes, characterized her as an "above average" driver.

Because of the length of TriMet buses, Jolliffe testified that he trains bus drivers that the proper way to make left turns in the city is to straddle two lanes rather than stay in the furthest left lane.

Jolliffe said Day was better than most drivers he reviewed and had been commended by riders. He called it "borrowing" from an adjacent lane to make a proper turn.

He said a good turn requires three lanes to make turn -- two on the street from which a bus is turning and the one in which they are continuing.

"We do it at 100 intersection; we do it everywhere," Jolliffe said.

Greenlick asked the defense witness if he was aware that such maneuvers are considered illegal for other motorists. "Is it illegal? No," Jolliffe responded. "Because that's what we have to do."

Prosecutors say Day illegally accelerated across a lane after a courtesy stop to turn from westbound Northwest Glisan Street onto Broadway. However, Jolliffe said he couldn't say what Day did was wrong.

In a similar situation, he said, "I might block access to both lanes to control them," Jolliffe said. "It's not a territorial or aggressive thing." He said bus drivers need to keep motorists from pulling up to them before a turn.

He also disagreed with TriMet training manager Morgan's testimony that drivers are trained to make turns at 5 mph. He said he trains drivers to make turns at a "slow and reasonable speed. There is no number."


Sandi Day is under direct questioning from defense attorney Michael Greenlick. She said she worked for six years as part-time bus driver before going to work for TriMet in November 2007.

The majority of her life, Day said she has worked in the “hospitality industry.”

During her training, she said she received no specific training that indicated left turns were any trickier than right turns. She also said bus drivers were “strongly encouraged to do courtesy stops.”

There was no specific training about which speed to take turns, she testified. A typical turn, she said, turn is 7 to 15 mph, depending on how much maneuvering is required.
11:40 a.m.

Day says she has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, which has affected her memory. She has started to break down and cry three times while trying to remember her shift before she struck the pedestrians.

12:10 p.m.

Greenlick: “Do you remember what you did?”

Day: “I began braking.” She begins to sob heavily. She says something that is hard to understand. Prosecutor Chuck Sparks asks her to repeat her statement. “I thought,” she said, “of hard braking over bodies.”

Day: “I stopped the bus. I remember someone on left side window, someone yelling and screaming for me to move the bus. I tried to think if I should move the bus.”

At that point, she said, the man screaming at her through her open window then punched her in the head, shoulder, neck and ribs. (Ryan Hammel has testified that he punched Day in the shoulder to get her attention after seeing his sister trapped under the rear wheels.)

Day: “I remember moving the bus. I don’t remember how far. I had a hard time remembering if I had made my emergency call. I remember talking to the dispatcher, asking for a supervisor. I remember thinking while the bus is running I might be burning them.”

11:59 a.m.

Day said she had worked the Line 14 until 2 a.m. on April 24. She returned to work at 3 p.m. and started the Line 9 at 5:55 p.m.

Just before midnight, she was making her last swing through downtown.

She recalls Peter Leiss, the security guard that she had picked up, requesting a courtesy stop. (Leiss has testified that he didn’t ask for her to stop off her normal route).

Greenlick asked why she chose the Line 17 stop on far north corner of Northwest Glisan Street, about 20 feet away from Broadway. “The only thing I remember is something that it was closer to his home. I really don’t know.”

She has begun to sob.

“Stops are the safest place to stop,” she said. Asked why unscheduled courtesy stops are important, she said: “Service to the community. It’s part of my job.”

She said she can’t remember turning from Northwest Sixth and Flanders onto Glisan before the courtesy stop.

By habit, she knew to “angle out” a bus at stops. She believes she left a little bit of the bus in the adjacent lane on Glisan, based on her view of bus surveillance video.

“I believe I saw people on the far corner during my scan” On a diagram at the front of the courtroom, she points to the southwest corner of Broadway, across the intersection.

Greenlick: “What do you remember after that?”

Day: “I remember seeing people in front of my windshield. … Right in front of me. A shadow here. A shadow with hair in front of me. And movement.”

The parents of Sale and Hammel are in the front row, sobbing.

Tears are streaming down Day’s cheeks. Her lip is quivering heavily. It’s hard to make out some of her statements.
12:15 p.m.

Day continues: “There was a lot of screaming.”

Asked if she recalled someone coming on the bus, she testified, “I do now remember someone coming on the bus.”

She says it was Stephanie Rilatos, whose earlier testimony was challenged because it was discovered Wednesday that her sister and boyfriend work at TriMet and she has applied for a job at TriMet.

Greenlick: “Do you remember what she said to you.”

Day: “I believe she told me to stay calm and I assume she told me they had been running in front of my bus.”

Greenlick: Why do you assume that?
Day: “Because I stated it to police.”

“I don’t remember anyone running in front of the bus.”

“I wasn’t even speculating” about how it happened.

Greenlick: Do you understand now how it happened?

Day: “No sir.”
12:25 p.m.

Greenlick asks Day to recall what happened after she was taken back to the TriMet Powell Street Garage after the crash.

Day says she was put in a room with four TriMet managers. She said they told her to give a verbal statement and to fill out written paperwork about what happened. She said she had trouble.

Sobbing, Day recalls,  “I told them I couldn’t … and one of them demanded that I do it now.”

“I realized I couldn’t say what really happened. I asked for my union rep.”

“All I know is that I saw them at impact, and I realize that’s all I should put on my paperwork.”

For days after the tragedy, she says she couldn’t sleep.

12:30 p.m.

Defense attorney Michael Greenlick asks if the sweeping left turn across a lane on Glisan and left onto Broadway was “consistent” with what she learned in her weeks of TriMet training.

Day says yes. In fact, she says, she did a very similar thing regularly while driving the Line 96, with a stop at Southwest Commerce Circle and 95th Avenue (TriMet moved that stop after the April tragedy).

She says she took that turn, moving across a full lane before turning, during he probationary period, when trainers and supervisors would ride with her. No one told her it was wrong, she said.

Greenlick: Did that experience factor into why you thought you could do that safely?

Day: Yes. And, she says, the fact that she is trained to use space as needed to keep a 4-foot cushion around bus as it turns.

Greenlick: So the turn from westbound Glisan onto Northwest Broadway was consistent with your training.

Day: “Yes, sir.”
12:32 p.m.

The questioning has barely started before she breaks down crying. Day: “I didn’t know that a lot of the things we were asked to do weren’t legal.”
12:40 p.m.

Sparks to Day: It’s apparent, you don’t know what happened. Day says that’s right.

Day says she habitually scanned every 5 to 8 seconds while driving buses. She tried not to get “into a fixed stare.” While turning, she says she scanned for “movement, risks, cars, bicycles, more things.”

Sparks: “You were trained to look around obstacles. It was your responsibility to scan around them before you proceed forward.”

“Yes sir.”

On the courtesy stop, Sparks asks if it’s her understanding that she needs to make sure a stop is safe and legal -- in and out -- before a driver makes it?

Day: “Yes, sir.”

Day said she knew the Glisan stop because she had driven the Line 17 before. She said she had to pull close to the right lane curb because Leiss appeared elderly.

Sparks: “Realistically, don’t you think 12 to 14 mph was a little fast to be turning into that crosswalk?”

Day: “I don’t know how fast I was going. I assume it was a safe and reasonable speed.”

Sparks asks Day if she thinks it’s her responsibility to know what is in a crosswalk? Wouldn’t driving that fast toward a crosswalk with pedestrians be unsafe at the speed?

Day: "Yes."

Sparks: “It’s true then that you didn’t know what was in that crosswalk?”

Day: “I thought I did.”
12:45 p.m.

Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Chuck Sparks has finished the cross-examination of Sandi Day.  No further questions.

Day leaves the stand.

Judge Stephen K. Bushong has called a recess in the trial until Feb. 4.

The TriMet driver union, Amalgamated Transit Union 757, has hired its own expert to conduct a crash reconstruction for the trial and he won’t be available to testify until then.

It also should be noted that the union is paying Day’s defense costs as it fights to get her job back from TriMet.


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