BANGOR, Maine — A Penobscot County jury Thursday found a Danforth man guilty on charges stemming from a car accident in September 2007 that left his pregnant girlfriend paralyzed.
Jayson Caron, 31, was found guilty of aggravated assault, operating under the influence of intoxicants and aggravated OUI. Caron, whose attorney had tried to convince the jury that the girlfriend had been driving, showed no emotion as the verdict was announced.
Neither the former girlfriend nor his wife was in court when the verdict was read. No friends or relatives of the defendant or the victim were present either.
The jury of five women and seven men deliberated for 90 minutes after three days of testimony. They found that Caron was driving his high-performance pickup truck drunk when he lost control and rolled it over on North Road in Carroll Plantation about 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 1, 2007.
Both Caron and Bobbi Jo Norris, now 19, of Mattawamkeag were ejected from the truck through the driver’s door. Neither was wearing a seat belt.
Defense attorney F. David Walker IV of Bangor presented evidence that Norris was driving at the time of the crash. He criticized the Maine State Police for not calling an accident reconstructionist to the scene and for not taking enough measurements so it could be determined who was driving.
Caron’s blood alcohol level was .16, more than twice the legal limit of .08 nearly two hours after the accident when it was tested at Eastern Maine Medical Center, according to medical records introduced at the trial. Caron told investigators that he brought an 18-pack of Budweiser beer to the Springfield Fair and drank between 10 and 12 of them between about 11:30 a.m. and about 6:30 p.m., according to testimony. He also said that Norris did not drink alcohol during the day.
Jurors concluded that Norris, who was several months pregnant at the time of the accident, was a passenger. Norris, who is a paraplegic as a result of the accident, testified Monday against Caron.
Caron and Norris are no longer a couple. The fetus was not injured in the accident and their daughter, who lives with Norris, is now 16 months old and healthy, according to Greg Campbell, assistant attorney for Penobscot County who prosecuted the case.
The aggravated OUI and aggravated assault charges stemmed from the accident, Campbell told the jury Thursday in his closing statement. The OUI charge was aggravated because serious bodily injury resulted.
The other OUI charge stemmed from an incident earlier in the day at the Springfield Fair where Caron had entered his truck in a tractor pull, the prosecutor said. Caron was disqualified after he backed up when told to drive forward and struck another truck.
When the couple left the fair, Norris was driving, Campbell told the jury, but Caron took the keys from her when they stopped at the Smith Store outside the fairgrounds. While Caron was in the store, Norris spoke on her cell phone with her father, Richard Norris, who had remained at the fair.
He suggested that his daughter stay at the store and he would come pick her up, the prosecutor said in his closing. Bobbi Jo Norris testified that she refused the ride from her father and slid into the passenger seat when Caron came out of the store.
Defense witness Gordon “Chip” Johnston of Hampton, N.H., testified that from the police reports it was not possible to tell who was driving. The former New Hampshire state trooper who now works privately as an accident reconstructionist, testified Thursday that in most rollovers where both people are ejected from a vehicle, the driver would be thrown the farthest.
Johnston said that it was most likely that Norris was driving because she was found a greater distance from the vehicle than was Caron.
Campbell said in his closing that the jury should give more weight to the testimony of Dr. Edward David, deputy medical examiner for the state. David testified that because the majority of injuries were found on Caron’s left side and the majority of Norris’ injuries were on her right that he was driving and she was the passenger.
Caron faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000 on the reckless conduct charge. He faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000 on each of the OUIs.
The fact that Caron has three prior convictions for OUI — in 2000, 2001 and 2003 — was inadvertently displayed on the docket sheet outside the courtroom door. Before the trial began, the judge excluded that fact from evidence. The defense discovered that the words “three previous convictions” were posted on the docket sheet while the jury was deliberating, and Walker brought it to Anderson’s attention.
After the jury had reached its verdict, Anderson questioned each juror individually in his chambers to determine if any one of them had read the docket sheet and if Caron’s prior convictions had been discussed during deliberations. After he had spoken with all the jurors, the judge declared the trail had been fair and denied a defense motion for a mistrial.
“Naturally, we are disappointed with the result,” Walker said as he left the courthouse. “There are significant issues here for an appeal, and we’ll be looking into that.”
Caron had been out on bail pending the trial. Anderson granted a prosecution motion to revoke Caron’s bail and ordered he be held at the Penobscot County Jail pending sentencing. A sentencing date has not been set.