A dentist from Pembroke, Ont., has been found guilty of impaired driving causing death and dangerous driving causing death after a trial that lasted nearly three years.
Justice Neil Kozloff ruled that Dr. Christy Natsis was drunk when the sport utility vehicle she was driving crossed the centre line on Highway 17 near Arnprior, Ont., and crashed head-on into a pickup truck driven by Bryan Casey in March 31, 2011.
Casey, who was 50 at the time of the crash, later died of his injuries. He left behind his wife and three children.
Lawyers for the defence and Crown are next scheduled to meet in court on June 10 to discuss pre-sentencing issues.
Outside the courtroom Friday, after the verdict had been read, Casey's family told reporters they were thankful.
"We have been in court every single day of the trial and we've heard the evidence, we know the facts, we know the truth, and we are relieved that justice is being done," said LeeEllen Carrol, Casey's widow. "The pain inflicted on us and our families by the crash and the drawn-out court case has left a huge impact on our family and should not be experienced by others.
"I will never forget the look on my children's faces when I told them what happened. I will never forget the pain in their eyes and in their hearts," she said.
Casey's father, William 'Gus' Casey, agreed.
"It's been a very long trial. It was a very painful experience to lose my son Bryan in the prime of his life, and to experience and witness the grief and [heartbreak] and pain of LeeEllen and their children, Bryan's brothers and sisters, and our extended families in Ireland, the U.K. and Canada," he said.
"Bryan was a good son and a credit to his family. May the good lord hold Bryan in the palm of his hand, until we meet again."
Witnesses credible and reliable, judge ruled
There was little reaction from Natsis and her husband as Kozloff delivered the verdict early Friday afternoon. Carroll, meanwhile, hugged family members.
Before giving his decision, Kozloff spent about three hours going through the main points of the case.
He called the witnesses credible and reliable, including staff at a Kanata bar who said Natsis smelled of alcohol and appeared intoxicated, drivers who saw Natsis weaving erratically through traffic, and emergency personnel who were on scene after the 2011 crash.
All of their testimony indicated that Natsis was impaired at the time, Kozloff said, adding that her recklessness directly contributed to Casey's death.
Some evidence ruled inadmissible
Natsis had pleaded not guilty to charges of impaired driving causing death, dangerous driving causing death and exceeding the legal blood alcohol limit.
Natsis's blood-alcohol level was nearly 2½ times the legal limit but Kozloff tossed that evidence after ruling that the arresting officer denied Natsis the right to speak with her lawyer.
He found that OPP Const. Shawn Kelly contravened one of the fundamental requirements of an expert witness, namely that he be independent, unbiased and impartial, and ruled "significant portions" of his testimony were inadmissible.
But Kozloff said Kelly's analysis of the collision — scrapes and gouges in the road, distance and speed calculations, and other technical findings — was admissible.
Lawyers for Natsis had argued the testimony of three OPP officers should be excluded because they were "infected with the twin viruses of tunnel vision and confirmation bias."
Kozloff refuted that claim.
The defence did not call any evidence in the case, which wrapped up in October. Closing arguments were submitted in writing.
Trial about 10 times longer than average, lawyer says
The trial has been "longer by about 10 times than your average impaired driving case," said James Foord, a past president of the Defence Counsel Association of Ottawa.
"The issues raised in the case are significant," Foord said Friday on Ottawa Morning. "And the charges facing Ms. Natsis were also grave."
Casey's family has also launched a civil lawsuit against Natsis seeking $500,000 in damages for Casey's death.
That case has been on hold, pending the end of the criminal trial.