Judge to rule today on fatal crash trial | TheUnion.com

Judge to rule today on fatal crash trial

Did Raymond Herve blow up after getting cut off in traffic and cause last year’s fatal crash near the Nevada County Fairgrounds? Or was he nowhere near the horrific scene?

Judge Ersel Edwards will announce his conclusions today after testimony in Herve’s vehicular manslaughter trial ended Wednesday in Nevada County Superior Court. The 46-year-old Herve is also charged with reckless driving and leaving the scene of an accident.

Witness accounts of the March 7, 2001, collision don’t match up, they don’t point to Herve, and the California Highway Patrol was hasty in saying Herve succumbed to “road rage,” his lawyer, Ron Lange, said in closing arguments.

“This became theory,” Lange said. “It was adopted, I would suggest, too early in the course of the investigation.”

But Deputy District Attorney Dave Walters said the witness accounts can be reasonably spliced together to show Herve reacted after Bruce Kirkpatrick cut him off, spurring a race from the Golden Center Freeway to Highway 20 west of Grass Valley.

“And they also fit with the behavior of Mr. Herve, who was angered greatly by the driving pattern of Mr. Kirkpatrick,” the prosecutor said.

Kirkpatrick’s Chevy pickup skidded into the oncoming lane and collided with a Nissan car driven by 22-year-old Grass Valley resident Jesse Roberts, who died at the scene.

Walters said Herve caused the crash after he pulled his 1969 Ford Thunderbird in front of Kirkpatrick and braked, causing Kirkpatrick to lose control.

Walters also scrutinized Herve’s claim that he drove to a Penn Valley hardware store. That route to his McCourtney Road area home tacked on nearly 9 miles, store employees don’t recall seeing Herve, and a witness who claimed he followed Herve’s car after the crash said it didn’t stop at the store.

Lange insisted Herve did stop at the store, and that investigators failed to check the store’s surveillance tape.

Earlier, the defense lawyer called a witness who said Herve routinely covered the Thunderbird with a blanket – in response to CHP claims that Herve tried to hide the car after the crash.

Herve, who didn’t testify, opted to have the judge decide his case rather than a jury. The trial started Tuesday.

Kirkpatrick, a 62-year-old Nevada City resident, was charged in the case but deemed incompetent to stand trial because of head injuries caused by the crash.

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