The driver accused of killing a state police trooper in a crash on the Massachusetts Turnpike three years ago was removed from a Worcester Superior courtroom Tuesday after an outburst in which he repeatedly apologized to the trooper's widow and openly questioned his lawyer and the legal process.
Prosecutors allege 33-year-old David Njuguna of Webster was driving 80 mph and high on marijuana on March 16, 2016, when his car struck Trooper Thomas Clardy's stopped cruiser from behind on Interstate 90 n Charlton. The 44-year-old trooper was a father of seven.
Just as the seventh day of his trial was set to get underway with closing arguments on Tuesday, Njuguna interrupted and started addressing Judge Janet Kenton-Walker. He did not testify during the trial, so it was the first time the court had heard from him.
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"Um, your honor, I do know what has happened, your honor, so there is no need to go any further," Njuguna began. "I'm very sorry for what happened. I'm very sorry Mrs. Clardy for what happened, but your honor, he [defense attorney Peter Ettenberg] told me not to say anything. I had trusted him, but I'm sorry for what happened."
He continued to apologize over and over again, even after the judge advised him he was not under oath and his words would not be accepted as testimony.
Njuguna also criticized his Ettenberg, his lawyer, saying he no longer trusts him.
"Mr. Ettenberg told me not to say anything about how the search warrants were received, were done, and I'm very sorry, your honor. I thought that I could trust him, and I thought that I could trust the system, but even with the evidence, I was wondering 'Where is the evidence?' and he told me 'Just let it go,' and I did let it go because that's what he advised me. He said that I should trust him."
"I'm very sorry -- it was an accident," Njuguna continued. "I tried to trust you, and I tried to trust them. I just wanted you to know that I'm very sorry and even with the search warrants and the blood and everything else, like he had evidence that the blood wasn't mine, that search warrants were done improperly, he told me to let it go and I let it go. I've been scared, your honor."
The judge then asked Njuguna to sit down, and when he refused and continued to speak she had him removed from the courtroom by bailiffs.
Njuguna could be heard saying as he left the courtroom, “…can’t get justice your honor. I’m sorry for what happened. Why are people lying about everything? Oh my god, why are you lying?”
The judge called for a sidebar once Njuguna left, and court was in recess for over two hours before the judge and lawyers returned to court at 11:30 a.m. for another brief sidebar before going into recess again.
After a nearly six-hour delay, with Njuguna out of the courtroom but listening from elsewhere in the courthouse, the attorneys finally gave their closing arguments around 3 p.m.
Defense attorney Peter Ettenberg said, “The Commonwealth simply wants you to ignore how this accident happened, and expects you to guess at a bunch of other explanations that make no sense.”
Assistant District Attorney Jeffrey Travers said, “He drove with reckless disregard for his own limitations and the safety of the public, his decisions and actions caused the death of Trooper Thomas Clardy.”
This is a bench trial, so there’s no jury. The judge took the matter under advisement and said she will issue a ruling at a later date.