State trooper: Duluth funeral home director in 'altered state' when fatal accident occurred
Daniel Dougherty was "in an altered state" and driving under the influence of a prescription sleep aid when he crashed his SUV into a car at the intersection of U.S. Highway 53 and Arrowhead Road, killing two men, the State Patrol trooper who rec...
Daniel Dougherty was "in an altered state" and driving under the influence of a prescription sleep aid when he crashed his SUV into a car at the intersection of U.S. Highway 53 and Arrowhead Road, killing two men, the State Patrol trooper who reconstructed the accident testified Thursday.
Dougherty is standing trial in St. Louis County District Court charged with driving under the influence of a controlled substance, careless driving and failure to obey a traffic signal in the March 15, 2009, accident that caused fatal injuries to Timothy Schlies, 26, and Hans Warrren, 27.
State Patrol Sgt. Neil Dickenson investigated and reconstructed the accident. He testified that he has investigated 136 crashes involving
fatalities and 500 other crashes in his career.
Dickenson told jurors there was no reaction or perception on Dougherty's part prior to him crashing his GMC Yukon into Schlies' Toyota Camry. He said he determined Dougherty was traveling a little over
55 mph and Schlies was traveling a little over 6 mph at the time of the collision.
Several bottles of prescription and over-the-counter pills were found in Dougherty's vehicle. Testimony indicated that he had been spending time at his own home and at his ex-wife's and carried his medication in his vehicle as a convenience.
Jody Nelson, a forensic scientist working in the toxicology department of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension crime lab in St. Paul, testified that Zolpidem, also known as Ambien, was found in Dougherty's blood sample. She called the drug a fast-acting hypnotic, which helps calm down activity in the brain to induce sleep.
Dickenson said that when he first told Dougherty that remnants of Ambien were found in his blood sample, Dougherty said he didn't know how that would be.
Defense attorney David Keegan told jurors in his opening statement that Dougherty mistakenly took an Ambien pill when he thought he was taking a pill for high cholesterol.
Hermantown city prosecutor Shawn Reed suggested to jurors in his opening statement that Dougherty should have known the difference because the cholesterol pill was pink and the Ambien pill was white.
In testimony Thursday, it was learned that at the time of the accident Dougherty was in the process of changing over from a cholesterol medication that was white.
Reed rested his case Thursday. Keegan began his defense of Dougherty. The defense attorney has used every opportunity he has had during the trial to stress how cooperative his client was with law enforcement throughout the investigation.
On Thursday, Keegan attempted to show jurors that his client is a good person. He called the Rev. Jerome Weiss, pastor of St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Grand Rapids, to testify to Dougherty's character.
The attorneys met with Judge Heather Sweetland outside the courtroom to discuss what questions could be asked of the character witness.
Keegan had a very narrow focus to his questioning of the pastor. Weiss told jurors that he has known the Duluth funeral home director professionally since 1983 and that the two have been friends for about 20 years. The pastor said Dougherty is "a good person, a good friend, a hard worker, honest and a very truthful person.''
Keegan told the court that his client will testify in his own defense. The case is expected to go to the jury today. The crimes Dougherty are charged with are misdemeanors punishable by a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.