Alysha Palumbo

Defense Disputes Speed of Driver in Crash That Killed Trooper

The driver, David Njuguna, is accused of being high on marijuana at the time of the deadly crash

As the trial against a man charged in a crash that killed a Massachusetts State Police trooper continued Friday, the driver's defense disputed the speed he was said to have been going.

Just how fast was David Njuguna driving when he crashed into Thomas Clardy's cruiser on the Massachusetts Turnpike in Charlton in March 2016? The prosecution has asserted he was speeding, driving at least 81 miles an hour. But a defense witness said Friday he may have actually been going below the speed limit, at 64 miles per hour.

"You have actually two changes of velocity speeds for the Ford," said defense witness Stephen Benanti, a former Massachusetts State Police lieutenant.

Benanti is an accident reconstruction consultant who testified that it's impossible to know for sure because investigators were unable to extract the Nissan's crash data, so they have to base their speed calculations on data from Clardy's Ford cruiser and the Chevrolet Tahoe that Clardy's car crashed into.

When questioned by Judge Janet Kenton-Walker, Benanti said, "I gave two answers, one being 81 and one being 64, depending upon what the change in velocity speed you use for the Ford."

"It was just veering to the right," said truck driver Michael Russell, who also took the stand for the defense.

Russell witnessed the crash and ran to Njuguna's car to see if he was OK.

"I seen the person in the car shaking," he said.

His testimony aligns with the defense's claim that Njuguna suffered a seizure prior to the crash.

"Can you describe how he was shaking?" defense attorney Peter Ettenberg asked.

Russell shook his arms and body, saying, "Like, really, like, shaking."

He added later in his testimony, "I thought it could have been a medical condition."

Testimony is scheduled to resume Monday.

The trial is expected to wrap up next week.

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