In Gillis Trial, Jurors to Visit Westwood Site Where Accident Happened
The trial of a Norton man in Dedham District Court Wednesday will continue on October 25, when a panel of at least 10 witnesses will testify.
Norton resident George Gillis faced trial at Dedham District Court Thursday on charges stemming from an accident that killed an elderly Westwood man in December 2008.
The trial will now continue on October 25, when a panel of at least 10 witnesses will testify and jurors will view the scene of the accident.
Thursday's trial comes nearly two years after the initial incident, which occurred on December 9, 2008. Gillis, the owner of George Gillis Trucking, reportedly backed his construction vehicle over Edward Hansen, 78, of Westwood, who died from his injuries.
A criminal complaint was filed against Gillis in Dedham District Court in April of 2009. The complaint stated that Gillis operated a motor vehicle recklessly and caused the death of Hansen.
Gillis has pleaded not guilty to charges of motor vehicle homicide. Gillis' attorney Edward McCormick previously filed a motion for the jury to conduct a view of the scene because he said it would be critical to the case.
"The jury needs to see the scene to get a full understanding of the dimensions." McCormick said in court Thursday morning.
The truck involved will also be in question and would be at the scene when jurors tour the site, McCormick explained.
However, the prosecution said this would be a waste of time and resources because the evidence from the video and the witnesses would be sufficient. The judge allowed the defense's motion, but said time would be needed to arrange bussing for the jurors.
Hansen, a former Westwood Library Trustee, lived nearby the construction on Margery Lane. He was reportedly filming the construction and standing behind the truck when he was hit.
McCormick said that Gillis was not at fault because there is no evidence of him speeding or working improperly. Also, the truck is equipped with a very loud alarm that sounds when in reverse. McCormick said that OSHA performed an investigation of the incident and filed no citations against Gillis.
The prosecution's argument is that Gillis was responsible for Hansen's death because he failed to check behind the truck before moving it. According to the prosecution, the video evidence makes it clear that although Hansen did not hear the alarm, he was stationary and the blame could not be shifted away from Gillis.
McCormick, meanwhile, said that the video actually shows Hansen moving in back of the truck where Gillis could not see. Hansen reportedly had been prescribed a hearing aid, but nothing of the sort was found at the scene following an investigation by Westwood Police. The prosecution filed a motion to not include the victim's medical record regarding his hearing.
McCormick argued that in determining negligence, every piece of information, including Hansen's hearing diagnosis, must be taken into account. He said that the jury will be asked to judge whether Gillis' actions that day were reasonable or if he risked the safety of others.
"The jury must hear why this individual did not move," McCormick said.
McCormick said that the jury needs to be up to speed with Hansen's medical condition to understand why he never moved out of the way of the truck. If the jury doesn't know this information, McCormick said there is a risk they will find Gillis' conduct unreasonable. He added that Hansen's own actions, which include being on the construction site without a hearing aid, are the reason for the tragedy.
"My understanding is that a doctor will testify that he prescribed him hearing aids," said McCormick, adding that Hansen's hearing loss is acute to high pitch sounds, much like the alarm that sounds when Gillis' truck was in reverse.
"Quite frankly, where Mr. Hansen was, you can't see him," said McCormick. "That's why you have the alarm."
The prosecution said that no doctor knows whether Hansen was wearing a hearing aid on the day of the accident, and found this as an attempt to blame the victim, saying that the video shows that Hansen was standing in a stationary position at the time of the accident.
While prosecution said that the cause of the crash was that Gillis failed to look behind the truck before backing up, McCormick said that Gillis was not at fault because if Hansen had been wearing a hearing aid, he would have heard the loud alarm sounding as he reversed.
If convicted, Gillis faces a jail sentence of not less than 30 days and not more than 2 1/2 years, a fine of not less than $300 and not more than $3,000, or both.