Judge says suspected DUI driver must turn over medical records

COUPEVILLE — The Island County Prosecutor’s Office is inching closer to a trial date in the DUI-related vehicular homicide that killed Karen Gervais-Boone, a mother of two, in January 2007.

Two hearings were held in the case this week.

In a victory for the prosecution, Superior Court Judge Alan Hancock ruled that Randi Shelton, the woman who drove the SUV that struck Gervais-Boone, has to turn over her medical records. The documents may reveal more evidence pointing to her being drunk at the time of the collision.

The other ruling was a win for Shelton’s side. Prosecutor Greg Banks had asked the judge to throw out records from other cases cited by the defense — the prosecutor said the defense had not specifically said why they were relevant and had hoped to avoid a time-consuming review of the records — but the judge did not agree. The prosecution now must study almost 500 pages of material that focus on shoddy practices in the state’s toxicology laboratory that have been central to challenges against DUI crimes in other counties.

It’s been 15 months since Gervais-Boone was killed in a three-car collision on Highway 525 in Freeland. But a trial date is still far in the future for the driver accused of drunk driving.

Defense attorney Craig Platt of Coupeville is challenging the toxicology lab results that say Shelton was under the influence at the time of the fatal crash.

Platt is one of the many attorneys statewide who are challenging DUI test results from the Washington State Toxicology Laboratory. The laboratory has been under fire for its practices after multiple inconsistencies in testing were discovered last summer.

Platt could not be reached for comment Monday.

While Hancock did rule that Banks could obtain Shelton’s medical records, he said that the prosecution cannot disseminate the documents to anyone other than expert witnesses.

Banks said the records may provide other evidence that Shelton had alcohol in her system at the time of the crash.

“We still have the state tox report to rely on, but it can never hurt to give the jury more evidence,” he said. “We believe her blood was screened for alcohol in the hospital as well.”

The defense had filed a motion to block the prosecution’s subpoena of Shelton’s treatment records at Whidbey General Hospital after the collision. The judge denied the motion on Monday.

“This is a significant victory for the state,” Banks said.

“If admissible at trial, it will give the jury additional evidence to consider, besides the results from the toxicology lab. Due to the anticipated attack by the defense on the toxicology lab, I believe this additional evidence will be helpful to the jury at trial,” he added. “The more information, the better.”

Banks’ request to suppress a 480-page brief by the defense was denied, however. The paper that makes the case that the Seattle-based state lab can’t be trusted after the controversy involving alcohol screening tests erupted.

The defense filed the brief in support of their motion to suppress the results of the blood test by the toxicology laboratory.

Banks said the documents focused on the lab’s work on breath tests, and noted that Shelton’s lab work was instead conducted on blood samples.

“Much of the briefs attached to

Mr. Platt’s brief were devoted to challenges to the breath test program. There was no breath test in this case. Ms. Shelton’s alcohol level was determined by blood test,” Banks said.

The judge denied the request, but Banks said the impact on the case would be minor.

“It only means the judge and I have to wade through a lot of extraneous material to figure out what really matters,” Banks said. “It’s just a question of efficient use of government resources.”

If Shelton’s toxicology lab results are thrown out, the prosecution will have a harder time winning the case, Banks said.

Even so, more evidence points to DUI, he said.

According to the probable cause statement, the trooper at the scene of the crash reported that he smelled alcohol on Shelton’s breath.

Shelton told the trooper she had had two drinks, but the trooper saw two bottles of liquor in her car, according to police records.

The crash was not Shelton’s first alcohol-related problem with the law.

She has two prior DUIs, both out of Oregon, on her record.

If convicted, Shelton could face

55 to 65 months in prison under the standard sentencing range. That includes a two-year sentence enhancement for a prior DUI conviction.

It is not clear if any lab employees who were wrapped up in the toxicology lab scandal ever handled Shelton’s blood sample, nor is it clear if blood samples were ever treated improperly at the lab.

Banks said most material in the defense brief centers around breath tests. In Shelton’s case, a breathalyser test wasn’t taken. Instead, blood was drawn due to her extensive injuries.

Gervais-Boone was killed Jan. 22, 2007 in a collision on Highway 525 at the intersection of Mutiny Bay Road.

Shelton, 36, was driving south on Highway 525 when she crossed the center line in her 2004 Dodge Durango and hit Gervais-Boone’s Toyota van.

Gervais-Boone died on the scene.

Shelton’s vehicle then continued south and hit another car.

Prosecutors charged Shelton in Island County Superior Court on Feb. 5, 2007 with vehicular homicide.

Shelton’s arraignment, scheduled for Feb. 20, 2007, was initially continued in order to allow her time to recuperate from surgery. She suffered extensive injuries in the collision, including an open ankle fracture and internal injuries, according to court records.

The trial has been continued numerous times since then, mainly because the defense has asked for more time to uncover evidence related to problems at the toxicology lab.

On Nov. 13, the trial was reset to

Feb. 26 based on the unfolding issues in the toxicology lab.

On Feb. 11, the prosecution told the judge that it anticipated the need for another continuance, and set a hearing for Feb. 25 to enter a final scheduling order.

The next hearing is scheduled for

May 20, and Banks anticipates the new trial date will be June 3.

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