Pharos-Tribune

February 6, 2013

Causation not issue in trial of Lewis

Former clerk to face jury trial Feb. 12

by Caitlin Huston
Pharos-Tribune

— Whether or not the former Galveston clerk-treasurer actually caused the injury in a hit-and-run will not be an issue considered in trial next week, a judge ruled in Cass Superior Court I Tuesday.

Police say that 46-year-old Christine Lewis was the driver of a car that hit 21-year-old Trey McCulley on Sept. 2, 2011, while he was crossing Ind. 218 near Lewis Cass Junior-Senior High School.

At Tuesday’s hearing, Kelly Leeman, Lewis’s attorney, argued that Lewis did not cause McCulley’s broken leg, but Judge Thomas Perrone ruled that the state did not have to prove that Lewis caused the accident, only that she had knowledge of the accident and did not stop.

Lewis faces charges of failure to stop after an accident resulting in serious bodily injury, a class D felony. Her trial is scheduled for Feb. 12.

Perrone also ruled that the Leeman’s expert witness, an Indiana State trooper, could testify about elements of the crash scene.

During Tuesday’s hearing, Leeman argued that the state would have to prove Lewis caused the injury to meet the requirements of the charge. He stated that while Lewis’s vehicle may have come into contact with McCulley, McCulley had already been hit by a car in the first lane of traffic.

“They haven’t even charged a complete crime in this case,” Leeman said.

Leeman drew a diagram on a chalkboard in the courtroom illustrating the police report stating McCulley was hit in the left leg, while Lewis reported a dent on the right side of her car.

“It’s a very significant issue in this court that needs to be resolved,” Leeman said.

Perrone agreed with Cass County Deputy Prosecutor Kelly Gaumer and said that the state did not have to prove Lewis caused the accident, but that she failed to stop and had knowledge of the crash.

“This is not going to be an issue in the trial next week,” Perrone said.

Leeman asked to file an interlocutory appeal, which would send the matter to an appeals court before the trial could begin, on Perrone’s judgement. Perrone said he would not sign the appeal.  

Gaumer was also granted a motion to exclude information on the medications McCulley was taking for autism at the time of the crash. Leeman said he would have used McCulley’s medical history in arguments for causation during the trial.

Interviewed after the hearing, Leeman said he had considered expediting the trial process by waiving the jury in favor of the bench trial. That way, he said they would be able to file an appeal sooner after the case was tried.

But he said he believed the evidence should come before a jury.

“I think we need to talk to the jury, and let them hear the evidence,” Leeman said.

A class D felony carries a possible penalty of six months to three years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Lewis turned herself in on Sept. 14, 2011, and bonded out later that day.

Caitlin Huston is a staff reporter of the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5148 or caitlin.huston@pharostribune.com.