Citing "neutrality" concerns, a Massachusetts judge banned dozens of uniformed state troopers from a courtroom Tuesday to hear the verdict in the case of a man charged in the 2016 death of fellow trooper Thomas Clardy, the Boston Herald reported.
What's the background?
Prosecutors said 33-year-old David Njuguna was speeding when he crashed into the back of Clardy's parked cruiser on the Massachusetts Turnpike, that marijuana was found in Njuguna's car, and that THC was found in his blood samples about an hour after the March 16 crash, WBZ-TV reported.
Image source: WBZ-TV video screenshot
Njuguna was indicted on six charges, including OUI manslaughter and felony motor vehicle homicide, the station said.
Clardy — who was 44 and an 11-year veteran of state police — left behind a wife and seven children, WBZ noted, adding that they were in the front row for the verdict.
'Neutrality must be embodied'
But Worcester Superior Court Judge Janet Kenton-Walker wouldn't allow the uniformed troopers to enter the courtroom to hear her verdict, as it's "a neutral place and impartial at all times. The neutrality must be embodied in the courtroom itself … to a fair and impartial trial and a neutral tribunal," the Herald said.
The State Police Association of Massachusetts said in a statement that it's "concerned with the decision to bar uniformed troopers from entering a public courtroom during this jury-waived trial," the paper added.
Kenton-Walker said her "ruling was not made in disrespect," the Herald said.
More from the paper:
A number of troopers gathered around a phone to hear a live-stream at the verdict's climax — when Kenton-Walker ruled David Njuguna was guilty of some counts but not guilty of others. One trooper put her hand on another trooper's shoulder as they listened to the judge.
As the courtroom doors opened and Clardy's wife and children walked out, the troopers stood at attention. Troopers declined to speak to reporters.
What was the verdict?
Njuguna was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, misdemeanor motor vehicle homicide, operating to endanger, and operating an uninsured vehicle — but not guilty of OUI manslaughter and felony motor vehicle homicide, WBZ said, adding that his bail was revoked.
"This was not an accident as defined under the law," Kenton-Walker said, adding that the prosecution failed to prove that Njuguna — a legal medical marijuana patient — was high at the time of the crash, the station said.
The judge said Njuguna was intentionally driving recklessly, the Worcester Patch reported, adding that witnesses testified that he was speeding, tailgating, and changing lanes without signaling in the moments before the crash.
Njuguna will be sentenced Nov. 21, WBZ said.
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