December 6, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
SHE was mowed down while doing her job as a traffic flag holder. The driver was going 112 kilometres an hour in a 60 km/h construction zone.
Yet Brittany Murray's killer walked out of court a free man Friday, to the dismay of the young woman's family and friends, who believe justice has been denied.
"We feel like we let Brittany down, and that's the part that hurts forever," the victim's father, Neil Murray, told the Free Press following the verdict.
"It's easy to say 'Don't say that,' but when you look up, you just feel like she's saying 'Is that all you're giving me? You taught me all 21 years of my life to be aggressive and to fight for what's right, and you're just going to walk away?' "
Mitchell Blostein, 70, was found not guilty of dangerous driving causing death.
Queen's Bench Justice Doug Abra ruled Blostein's conduct didn't represent a "marked departure" from the normal standard of care expected by motorists.
"I am satisfied he was driving with due care and attention," Abra said in his written decision.
Blostein was charged following the Oct. 18, 2010, collision that killed Murray. She was employed as a flag woman for Mulder Construction, which was resurfacing a stretch of Highway 207 between the Trans-Canada Highway and Highway 15.
Blostein testified he believed the speed limit was still 90 km/h and did not reduce his speed to 60 as warned by signs because he didn't see any workers until he hit Murray, who he claims he didn't see standing in the roadway with the flag. That would still put his speed of 112 km/h at 22 km/h over the limit, rather than 52 km/h over.
However, Abra said Friday it's clear Murray was flagging "some distance away" from any actual construction work in the area, perhaps as much as 200 metres.
He said Blostein's high speed alone isn't enough to convict.
"I am not satisfied that driving at a speed of approximately 112 km/h with good visibility and a dry highway, when there were no workers in the immediate vicinity, was a marked departure from the manner in which a reasonably prudent person would have driven when the wording on the sign is that 60 km/h is the speed limit only when passing workers," said Abra.
"If it was intended that the speed limit of 60 km/h applied throughout the construction zone, whether workers were present or not, the sign should have said that."
Abra also took issue with the fact Murray was wearing iPhone earbuds at the time of the tragedy, which was a violation of company rules and may have led to a lack of attention on her part.
"This undoubtedly impacted her hearing, her concentration and her cognizance for oncoming traffic," he said.
Outside court, Murray's family said they were angered by the decision.
"Our daughter didn't do anything wrong. It's like she's the one who's guilty of something," said Murray. The family is also upset Abra didn't even take the time to read his decision, but instead handed out a copy of it and adjourned court only minutes after it started.
"We really felt like it was like 'Who gives a care about your daughter, let's just get out of here,' " said Murray. They also questioned why Blostein never apologized for what happened.
"I am not advocating Mr. Blostein is an evil man," he said. "(But) we never heard 'I'm sorry.' "
At his trial earlier this month, the Crown argued Blostein failed to take cautionary steps a reasonable person would have taken.
"This is a case of speed and inattentiveness," prosecutor Craig Savage said during his closing arguments. "If (Blostein) had been paying more attention to his speed and to his surroundings, he would have seen Miss Murray."
Savage said Blostein should have known to expect a flag person and other workers along the site and was driving too fast for those conditions. Savage said the report of an RCMP collision-reconstruction analyst found that, based on the skid marks, Blostein had been travelling at a minimum of 112 km/h just before he applied his brakes and then was doing 89 km/h when he struck and killed Murray.
Defence co-counsel Lisa LaBossiere said Blostein did nothing that day that should turn him into a criminal. Abra clearly agreed.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 29, 2013 A3
Updated on Saturday, June 29, 2013 at 6:17 PM CDT:
corrects first name of accused.