Tuesday, December 10, 2013
By Betty Adams firstname.lastname@example.org
AUGUSTA -- A Windsor man accused of manslaughter in the death of an 81-year-old pedestrian sought Thursday to suppress evidence of various pills found in his Jeep as well as statements he had made to police about his drug use the day of the fatal crash.
Joshua A. Erskine, 25, who is free on bail, was in Kennebec County Superior Court to hear investigators testify about their actions that day and about what Erskine had told them either spontaneously or as a result of questioning.
Defense attorney Pamela Ames wants to keep a number of things from being heard by a jury in the case, which could go to trial this fall. Erskine has pleaded not guilty to manslaughter and aggravated criminal operating under the influence.
The accident occurred about 3:30 p.m. March 30, 2012. Police at the time said Erskine's eastbound Jeep went out of control on North Belfast Avenue, swerved across a westbound lane, struck a parked car and then hit Ruth Epperson, who was walking along the sidewalk.
She was flown to Maine Medical Center in Portland where she died April 5.
Epperson's name did not come up at Thursday's hearing, although several of the police officers talked about learning from an ambulance crew that an elderly woman was seriously injured. Epperson was a nurse for more than 40 years, a local volunteer and an avid walker, family members said at the time of her death.
At Erskine's arraignment, an attorney representing him said the crash was caused by a flat tire as Erskine was driving home from work, taking the same route he took every day.
Augusta police Sgt. Christopher Shaw testified that he did not ask Erskine for registration or insurance cards but instead searched the Jeep's glove box and center console for them. During the search at the scene, he found two packs of Old Gold cigarettes, with several pills in each.
The prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Fernand LaRochelle, said the state would agree that a search of the glove box and center console of Erskine's Jeep at the scene was conducted without a warrant.
"I think that's a pretty easy call for the court as well," Justice Michaela Murphy told him.
However, Sgt. Michael Pion, a Kennebec County sheriff's deputy and accident reconstructionist, included some of Shaw's findings in an affidavit seeking a warrant to search of the impounded car. Ames wants the items from that search excluded as well.
At several points -- including when he was being taken in a cruiser to the hospital for a blood test -- Erskine told officers he had taken one or two Percocet pills and had smoked some marijuana that day.
Ames said those admissions were made while Erskine was in custody but before his being given a Miranda warning by Maine State Police Trooper Joseph Chretien just after 6 p.m. at the Augusta police station.
Murphy told both attorneys to put their arguments about the legal issues in writing, and she said she would consider the suppression motion after receiving them.
Betty Adams -- 621-5631