Tuesday, May 22, 2018 Elyria 70°

Cops and Courts

Driver in fatal crash says he was texting -- with voice feature


ELYRIA — Michael McFarland testified Wednesday that he was using a talk-and-text feature on his mobile phone when he was involved in a fatal car crash in 2015.

McFarland’s attorney, Michael Doyle, said later in the trial that using a hands-free texting feature is an exception to the state law against texting while driving and that his client wasn’t being reckless when he did so.

“The way I text and drive is not illegal,” McFarland said.

McFarland, 45, is charged with aggravated vehicular homicide and texting while driving in the Aug. 21, 2015, crash that killed Hubert Vaughn, 48, on U.S. Route 20.

Assistant Lorain County Prosecutor Peter Gauthier said there was nothing beyond McFarland’s word that he was using the talk-and-text feature on his phone the day of the crash. McFarland testified that the phone broke sometime after the crash and he got a new phone that had the same features. He also said he didn’t recall the model of his earlier phone.

Gauthier also said that it took McFarland around 10 seconds of looking at his phone to use the talk-and-text feature while sitting in the courtroom in a demonstration with Doyle.

McFarland also testified that he didn’t recall everything about the crash, something Gauthier later suggested was selective memory.

McFarland said the last thing he remembers was dropping his tea while driving his 2000 Dodge Ram 1500 and reaching down to grab it. He said he had sent his last text messages while at a stop sign on state Route 511 before heading west on Route 20.

The Ohio Highway Patrol determined that McFarland’s pickup hit the westbound 2008 Jeep Compass driven by Tami Ford before the Ram veered into the eastbound lane and struck Vaughn’s 2001 Ford Focus head-on.

Gauthier also said that even if county Common Pleas Judge John Miraldi, who is deciding the case instead of a jury, were to believe McFarland’s statements that he was using talk-and-text, McFarland’s medical issues made him being behind the wheel reckless.

McFarland testified that he sometimes experiences “light blackouts” lasting around 10 seconds. Doyle said his client has never been barred medically from driving a vehicle because of that.

Miraldi said he plans to announce the verdict today.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter @BradDickenCT.

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