Evil on trial: testimony in the Mandeville Canyon begins Friday

The judge is assigned, the jury empanelled.

If you’re looking at this one Friday morning, opening arguments may be taking place as you read this, Judge Scott Millington presiding — previously notable for handling the drug case of Redmond O’Neil, son of Farrah and Ryan, as well as serving as a prosecutor for over a decade.

According to L.A. cyclist/attorney DJwheels, it’s shaping up as a very interesting trial.

As you may be aware, Dr. Christopher Thompson is on trial for last year’s infamous 4th of July incident in Mandeville Canyon, accused of intentionally cutting in front of two cyclists, then slamming on his brakes directly in front of them, resulting in serious injuries to both.

He faces a long list of charges, including one felony count of reckless driving causing injury, two felony counts of battery with serious injury, two counts of causing great bodily injury while attempting to commit a felony, and one count of mayhem; he’s also charged with one count of misdemeanor reckless driving causing an injury for a separate incident in which he is accused of forcing another cyclist off the road the previous March.

The seriousness of the charges is reflected in the size of the good doctor’s entourage. According to DJwheels, the defense rat pack includes, in addition to his attorney, the attorney’s legal partner, two associates, a jury consultant and two very large body guards, as well as other assorted assistants and helpers.

Appropriate, because the Good Doctor reportedly admitted his guilt when initially questioned by the police. And a conviction on felony charges would undoubtedly mean the loss of his medical license, as well as significant jail time.

Which made jury selection unusually important.

DJwheels reports that, not surprisingly, cyclists were automatically excluded by the defense, with the exception of a former BMX racer. Evidently, he was acceptable because he said that bikes belong in designated places like bike paths and sidewalks — not, apparently, on narrow canyon roads through residential neighborhoods.

On the other hand, the prosecution asked most of the potential panelists about their attitudes about physicians. Like whether the stress of their job excused their actions, and whether they had a right to get away with things as a result.

And the judge dismissed one woman himself, after she said she wouldn’t be able to remain impartial since she has friends who’ve been hit by cars while riding.

The panel they ended up with reflects the diversity of the city — mostly women, with white, African American, Hispanic, Asian and Middle Eastern members, as well as one who may be Indian or Pakistani, according to Wheels, with an average age somewhere in the mid-30s.

He added that the one thing they all seemed to have in common was a recognition that there are bad drivers and bad cyclists. And that fault could lie with either party, depending on the facts.

Which is, I suppose, all we can ask of any jury.

Although personally, I’d feel better if they all showed up in spandex, cycling shoes and Livestrong wristbands for opening statements.

For me, though, the most interesting part was a ruling the judge made on Wednesday to excluded friends of the Good Doctor and other Mandeville Canyon residents as potential witnesses.

That suggests a defense strategy based on blaming the victims, or at least, blaming the actions of cyclists as a group for creating an atmosphere in which the Good Doctor’s actions were understandable, if not justified. Combined with earlier reports that he now claims it was an accident — despite his initial statements to the police — that suggests that he may say he was merely trying to stop so he could confront the cyclists or collect evidence of their actions for the police.

And that could negate the intent to cause harm that would be required to convict on the most serious charges.

DJwheels say the exclusion of the other witnesses may also mean that testimony the Good Doctor could have to testify himself — a move most attorney’s are reluctant to allow because it exposes their client to cross-examination.

And that’s one day of testimony I’d pay to see.

Opening statements are scheduled for Friday morning, between 9 and 11, at Department C of the Airport Courthouse, South La Cienega Blvd just below Imperial Highway; no afternoon session is scheduled due to a previous juror obligation. The trial is expected to last through the end of the month.

………

The Department of DIY creates a new bike lane on the UCLA campus. Evidently, L.A. cycling infrastructure wasn’t much better at the turn of the 20th Century. No Whip provides a great update on the new L.A. bike plan, and what you can do to get involved. Gary joins in support for Saturday’s L.A. Bike Working Group’s look at the bike plan, noting the new time and location. Dr. Alex dodges a massive flying disc while riding (no, not the possible hoax in my home town). CNN asks if ebikes will be the new “commuter cool.” Courtesy of our New Zealand correspondent, TheTricksterNZ, a report of a fatal hit-and-run in Auckland; clearly, it’s not just an American phenomenon. More evidence of a blame the victim mentality north of the border, including testing the victim for drugs or alcohol — but not the driver who killed him. A look back at the Higginson twins, cycling champs from the 1950s. A report from India notes the rise in cycling injuries in the U.S. A cyclist is injured in an apparent hit-and-run in Holywood — no, the other one with just one L. Finally, good news for lovers of massive burritos — East L.A.’s El Tepeyac isn’t going anywhere.

7 comments

  1. [...] Testimony for Road Rage Dr. Thompson Begins Today (Biking In LA) [...]

  2. GTinLA says:

    Thank’s for sharing – I tweeted the link to the LA cycling community.
    Cheers!

  3. Velocentric says:

    “…cyclists were automatically excluded by the defense,”

    So why then weren’t motorists automatically excluded by the prosecution?

    • bikinginla says:

      Good point.

    • Rich Wilson says:

      Because each side has a fixed number of exemptions. In fact, by saying she couldn’t be impartial and getting herself excused by the judge, that woman let the defense save an exemption for someone else.

      Although it would have been nice if the prosecution had asked “Do you drive a car” of one person, and dismiss them. Or maybe ask everyone what kind they drive and dismiss the first Lexus. Just to make a point.

  4. [...] 14, 2009 · Leave a Comment 10/16/09 UPDATE: Biking in LA has more [...]

  5. wcoastbo says:

    If anyone happens to be attending the trial on a daily basis, please update us. I would like to be at the closing arguments if they happen to be scheduled at a time I can attend. Thanks!

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