WALLACE — The trial of 23-year-old Chad Ward came to a close Thursday as a jury of his peers found the defendant guilty of vehicular manslaughter for driving under the influence.
Ward is currently out on bond until his sentencing from Judge Fred Gibler, which is scheduled for Jan. 14, 2013. While there is no minimum penalty, he could be facing up to 15 years behind bars and a $15,000 fine. for the July 9, 2011, one-car accident in which Ward allegedly failed to negotiate a curve on the Coeur d’Alene River Road while driving under the influence, causing Ward’s Mitsubishi Lancer to flip. The accident resulted in the death of 19-year-old Wallace High School graduate Anthony Legard.
The trial began Tuesday with jury selection and the prosecution beginning to make its case. County Prosecutor Keisha Oxendine rested the state’s case against Ward on Wednesday, and Defense Attorney Frederick Loats’ turn to call witnesses to the stand opened the trial Thursday before both sides made their closing arguments to the jury.
Loats only called one witness to the stand, William Oleson, the boyfriend of Ward’s mother. Oleson was with Ward at Kootenai Medical Center after the crash, and Loats questioned him about the blood sample taken from Ward at the hospital. Oleson testified a nurse attempted to take blood from Ward “10 to 15 times,” and he also said the nurse left the room three times during the process of attempting to get a blood sample.
Oxendine cross examined Oleson and asked if the nurse was successful in obtaining the sample while an ISP officer was present. Oleson confirmed and was allowed to step down from the stand.
With all witnesses called, Loats and Oxendine both took their turns giving closing arguments after Gibler gave instructions to the jury about their deliberation. Oxendine was the first to give closing arguments.
Oxendine spoke to the jury of their decision and said they have seen all of the evidence and it all points to Ward being intoxicated when he crashed the vehicle.
“The facts and evidence you’ve seen in this case tell a story,” Oxendine told the jury. “A story that occured on June 9, 2011 ... a story of a young man who lost his life.”
Oxendine moved back to her seat behind the prosecution council table, and Loats stood in front of the 12-man jury and began to make his closing arguments.
“What you’ve heard is one contradicting testimony after another,” Loats said. “Let’s examine the blood test results: One has to prove that the accused had blood alcohol content at the time of the accident. Not two, three hours after ... There is no evidence whatsoever to prove his blood alcohol content [level] was during the accident.”
Loats continued his closing arguments, pointing out inconsistencies in witness testimonies. He argued that there were significant aspects of the state’s evidence that contradict each other, and he told the jurors the prosecution is responsible for proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt; something he argued Oxendine and the prosecution failed to do.
Oxendine was given a chance to respond before the jury left for deliberation.
“The fact of the matter is a blood sample was taken ... That sample was tested and above [the legal limit],” Oxendine said. She then addressed the inconsistencies within testimonies.
“The defendant’s admission to drinking: That’s consistent among the witnesses. The admission to to driving: That’s consistent with the witnesses.”
The jury then deliberated for around one hour before reaching the verdict of guilty.
Oxendine said the prosecution was very happy with the result and with getting Legard’s family justice.
“I’m very pleased with the outcome,” Oxendine said. “It’s certainly an outcome of justice for Anthony.”