The jury-waived trial of a Massachusetts man charged with driving high on marijuana and causing the death of a state police trooper started Monday morning.
Thirty-three-year-old David Njuguna of Webster, Massachusetts, pleaded not guilty to charges that include manslaughter following the March 2016 death of 44-year-old Trooper Thomas Clardy, whose stopped cruiser from behind on the Massachusetts Turnpike in Charlton.
Clardy's widow, Reisa Clardy, described the last moments she saw her husband alive.
"Just told him I loved him and watched him back out of the driveway," Reisa Clardy said.
She was the first witness in the trial against Njuguna, who is accused of being high behind the wheel when he hit Clardy, allegedly going more than 80-miles-an-hour. Several people described witnessing Njuguna's black Nissan Maxima weaving in and out of traffic at high speeds just prior to the crash.
"I saw it coming out of the middle lane and going into the right-hand lane it came right up behind us on the bumper," said Richard Brattlof, who said he saw Njuguna's car driving erratically.
"I don't know what his speed was, but I was doing like 70-75, and he passed me like I was stopped," added Christopher Lindsay, who witnessed the crash.
"The death of Trooper Thomas Clardy on this date was no accident, but his death was the direct result of the defendant's unreasonable wonton and reckless behavior," said Assistant District Attorney Jeff Travers.
Prosecutors say Njuguna was high behind the wheel, citing marijuana cigarettes found in his car and elevated THC levels in his blood.
But Njuguna's defense attorney says it wasn't marijuana, but a medical episode — his client allegedly had a seizure while driving.
"Neither David Njuguna nor Tom Clardy knew their paths would cross in such a way," defense attorney Peter Ettenberg said. "But when they did cross, it was an accident and not a crime."
This is a bench trial, so there is no jury; Judge Janet Kenton-Walker will decide Njuguna's fate.
Testimony resumes Tuesday at 9 a.m. and the trial is expected to last about a week.