Guilty on all counts for woman who parked for ducks
A woman who parked her car on a highway to save some ducks has been found guilty of criminal negligence causing death and dangerous driving causing death.
After several days of deliberations and asking the judge multiple questions, the jury found Emma Czornobaj guilty on all four counts.
The verdict comes almost four years to the day after the crash that killed André Roy and his teenaged daugher Jessie.
Justice Eliane Perreault confirmed with the jury that they were unanimous in their verdict.
Czornobaj, who has no previous criminal record, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison for criminal negligence and 14 years in prison for dangerous driving.
She is scheduled to return to court for a pre-sentencing hearing on August. 8.
Widow wants to move on
In the days after the deadly crash Volikakis said she did not blame Czornobaj for causing the deaths of her husband and daughter.
In the courthouse on Friday she said much the same thing.
"My feelings are that it's time that we go on. This will not bring [back] my loved ones," said Volikakis.
"I have no expectations but I don't wish any ill will to anyone."
Volikakis did not want to discuss a possible sentence for Czornobaj, waving off reporters and walking away when asked.
On June 27, 2010 Emma Czornobaj, then 21 years old, parked her car in the left-hand lane of Highway 30 in Candiac because she spotted ducks on the median.
She got out of her car and tried to herd the ducks into her car.
Roy and his wife, Pauline Volikakis, were riding their motorcycles on the highway when they were caught off guard by the parked car.
A provincial police officer testified at the trial that Roy, whose speed was estimated at 113 km/h and 129 km/h when he applied his brakes, collided with Czornobaj's car at between 105 km/h and 121 km/h.
Neither was able to stop in time and they smashed into the parked car, with Roy dying at the scene in his wife's arms.
Jessie was pinned underneath the car and died soon afterward in hospital, while Volikakis was badly hurt.
During the trial other witnesses who were in front of the motorcycles said they were distracted by seeing Czornobaj on the median waving at ducks, and barely managed to swerve out of the way of the parked car.
The highway safety code states that stopping a car or walking on a highway are only allowed in case of "necessity," although what constitutes a necessity is not defined.
The Crown argued that Czornobaj's actions were not logical, and said a normal person would not have parked in a traffic lane.
During the trial Czornobaj, testifying in her own defence, said if the same thing were to happen today "I would not have stopped."
Outside the courtroom, Crown prosecutor Annie-Claude Chasse publicly thanked the jury for their work.
"We do have a lot of respect for all the work of the jury," Chasse said. "They did not have any easy questions to answer."
The Crown attorney also had a message for motorists.
"What we hope is that a clear message is sent to society that we do not stop on the highway for animals. It's not worth it."
Defence lawyer Marc Labelle said his client was stunned by the jury's decision.
"The fact that she was involved in the accident in the first place was a hard experience for her," he said. "The fact that she had to go through a trial with a lot of publicity was tough and to be confirmed by 12 citizens, the jury, that the conduct was criminal is a hard blow."
Labelle, who has been a lawyer for around 30 years, pointed out that the case was a unique one.
"It's the first time I do a trial where it is obvious that there is no criminal intent," he said.