SaltWire E-Edition

Court grants woman’s request for postponement days before trial

Neila Blanchard is charged with dangerous driving causing the death of a Cow Head teen


CORNER BROOK — For the second time this year a Parson’s Pond woman’s retrial on a charge of dangerous driving causing death has been postponed.

Neila Blanchard’s trial has supposed to start on Monday, Nov. 20, but has been set to take place in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador in March 2025.

Blanchard was charged in December 2017 after an investigation into a vehicle hitting a pedestrian in Cow Head on Sept. 11, 2017. Justin Hynes, 17, died after being struck by Blanchard while he was walking to school.

Blanchard’s first went to trial on the charge in October 2019, and she was acquitted in December 2019.

While there was no doubt she was driving the vehicle that struck Hynes and that her driving was dangerous, the trial judge found the Crown had failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt Blanchard’s driving represented a marked departure from the standard of care a reasonable person would have observed in the circumstances.

“In this matter, the fault element was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt,” Justice Valerie Marshall said in her decision.

The Crown appealed Marshall’s decision, arguing she had erred by assessing the pieces of evidence individually rather than as a whole; had misapprehended evidence, leading to the acquittal; had engaged in speculation; had failed to consider all the evidence in a police officer’s testimony about how he had calculated Blanchard’s speed at the time she struck Hynes; and erred when she found that the same officer, an accident reconstructionist, had testified outside his area of expertise.

The appeal was heard by the Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal in May 2021. In March 2022 the appeal court agreed Marshall made a series of errors that warranted an overturned verdict

The trial judge’s “piecemealing” of the evidence bore directly on whether Blanchard’s driving met the standard for a conviction, the appellate judges determined.

“Accordingly in the concrete reality of the case, I am of the view that the judge’s legal errors can reasonably be said to have had a material bearing on the acquittal,” wrote Justice Lois Hoegg of the Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal.

Justice William Goodridge and Justice Gillian Butler concurred, ordering a new trial for Blanchard.

Blanchard maintained her not guilty plea when she was arraigned on the charge for a second time in May 2022 and her trial was set for Feb. 6-10, 2023.

In January the Crown applied to postpone the trial because three of its witnesses were not available to testify due to medical issues and the trial was rescheduled for Nov. 20-24.

Senior Crown attorney Trina Simms told Saltwire in an email that Blanchard recently changed counsel and had made an application to postpone the trial again.

The application was heard in the Supreme Court in Corner Brook on Nov. 17. The Crown opposed the application, but it was granted, and new trial dates were set for March 10-20, 2025.





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