Huntingdon County’s lead prosecutor will seek medical expertise to testify on the correlation between speed and the injuries sustained by a Huntingdon man who was struck while crossing a Huntingdon street last spring.
District Attorney David Smith said there are broader issues at work in the commonwealth’s case against Marirose Risbon, 22, of Huntingdon, who’s facing two felony charges — aggravated assault by vehicle while DUI and aggravated assault by vehicle — among other offenses in connection to the April 8, 2018, crash.
During Thursday’s court session, Smith said there two precedent cases that suggest two possible directions for Risbon’s, noting it appears the case pivots on whether it’s proven the crash was the result of ordinary negligence or criminal negligence. The answer to that question, Smith said, lies in determining whether the crash was avoidable and how the defend’s alleged intoxication factored in.
According to the affidavit prepared by Huntingdon Borough Police, around 1:44 a.m. officer Chris Malliband saw Risbon’s southbound vehicle strike Jason Fox as he attempted to across Washington Street at the 13th Street intersection.
Malliband reported he saw the victim “run in what looked like an attempt to avoid the vehicle” when he was struck and thrown. The officer says the victim landed in the street and sustained “substantial observable injuries.” Officers rushed the victim to J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital for immediate treatment.
Fox was present Thursday but did not address the court.
Police say medical tests concluded Risbon had a blood alcohol count of .166 percent, plus cocaine in her system.
Smith said Thursday he’s reviewed two cases involving impaired drivers — one which struck a cyclist while making a proper, legal turn into a parking lot and another in which a driver struck a motorized wheelchair being operated partially in the roadway — that reached different conclusions.
“These are two cases that are very important in trying to determine this one,” he said, explaining the difference between ordinary negligence and criminal negligence will dictate which of the charges against Risbon stand and which ones could drop.
“If it’s ordinary negligence, we lose the top two charges.”
In addition to the two felony offenses, Risbon is charged with recklessly endangering another person, three counts of DUI relative to the results of the alcohol and drug tests; failure to yield to a pedestrian; careless driving; and reckless driving.
A state police crash reconstructionist has indicated there were no signs of breaking on Rison’s part and that her vehicle was traveling between 25-28 mph.
Defense attorney Thomas Hooper said while he accepts that the crash reconstructionist assigned to the case can testify about the crash itself, he said any testimony about injuries falls outside the officer’s expertise.
“He’s not qualified to give an opinion,” Hooper said. “You need a pathologist.”
Risbon is next scheduled for a pre-trial motions during the March 28 court session. One week prior, Zanic asked both parties to present briefs on the issues raised Thursday.