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This ruling came down on the very anniversay of his death. The timing couldn't have been any worse for us here at the YPD..

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The state Appeals Court yesterday overturned a jury verdict convicting a paving and construction company of motor vehicle homicide in the 2000 death of a Yarmouth police officer.

The decision was handed down on the fourth anniversary of the accident. Bradford Erickson, then 60 and a few months from retirement, died after a dump truck backed over him at a Centerville construction site where he was working a traffic detail. A jury in 2003 convicted the Angelo Todesca Corp., owner of the truck, of motor vehicle homicide in his death.

At issue was whether the Todesca company was negligent and therefore responsible for what happened. The Cape and Islands District Attorney's Office contended the lack of an audible backup alarm on the truck that killed him constituted deliberate negligence and led to the death.

But in yesterday's decision the Appeals Court agreed with the defendant that there was not enough evidence to sustain the conviction. The evidence, the ruling said, was "insufficient to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the failure to install a back-up alarm was the proximate cause of the accident."

The decision will be appealed to the Supreme Judicial Court, said Julia Holler, chief appellate attorney for the Cape and Islands District Attorney's Office. She argued that the appeals court acted beyond its purview.

"The standard is that the jury considers the evidence, and the appeals court considers the law," Holler said.

"They re-evaluated the evidence and basically substituted their review of the evidence for that of the jury."

The ruling came as members of the Yarmouth Police Department commemorated the anniversary of the popular officer's death.

Police Chief Peter Carnes yesterday sent an e-mail to his officers asking that they take a moment during their patrols to pause and remember Erickson. Carnes told the newer hires who never met him that they had missed a tremendous person.

"I'm awestruck that this decision has to be handed out on the fourth anniversary of the loss of Brad," Carnes said yesterday. "The timing is poor."

Erickson, a 28-year veteran officer and father of two, was working a paid detail on the afternoon of Dec. 1, 2000. Todesca was a subcontractor on the project, which included repaving and widening a stretch of Route 28 in Centerville.

Trapped by truck
A 10-wheel dump truck driven by Todesca employee Brian Gauthier of Westport backed up and struck Erickson while his back was to the vehicle. It pulled his legs between the rear wheels of the dump truck that, with a full load of asphalt, weighed 79,320 pounds. Erickson died of his injuries that night at Cape Cod Hospital.
Nearly 1,000 mourners attended his funeral.

The accident happened about five minutes after truck drivers had described their proposed movements to Erickson and after Gauthier turned off his radios, shifted to a slow backing gear and moved at two to three miles per hour, according to the appeals court ruling. Two nearby truck drivers sounded their air horns when they realized Gauthier was heading toward Erickson.

The court said Gauthier "took all reasonable precautions" to ensure Erickson's safety.

Although Gauthier had no backup alarm, the jury was instructed that no such alarm is required by state or federal regulators for such trucks working on a public way.

"There is no evidence that a backup alarm would have changed the result," the appeals court decision said.

O'Keefe responds
Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O'Keefe disagreed.
"Apparently, the Appeals Court, in relying on the reasoning that there was an insufficient relationship between the failure to maintain a proper backup alarm and the death of the officer, failed to grasp that the truck was going backwards when it ran the officer over," he said in a statement.

Jeff Karp, the company's trial and appellate counsel, said he regretted the officer's death. But he argued that it was the result of a tragic accident "for which no person or entity was at fault." And he expected the SJC to uphold yesterday's decision because "there was absolutely insufficient evidence at trial to convict the corporation."

"If someone other than a police officer was killed by a dump truck backing up at two miles an hour at a construction site, there absolutely would not have been any indictments handed down," he said. "This was a politically motivated prosecution."

Karp also said his client had been sued in civil court, either by Erickson's widow or his estate.

In a separate court case, Gauthier "admitted to sufficient facts" on the charges of vehicular homicide and failure to use due care in backing up. The complaint was continued without a finding and Gauthier was placed on probation for three years.

Todesca was later cited and fined $28,000 after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that Gauthier's truck had excessively tinted side windows, a cracked windshield, inoperable brakes, no backup alarm, and no employee acting an as observer as the truck backed up.

In late 2001, the road to Yarmouth's new police station was named after Erickson.

Staff writer SUSAN MILTON contributed to this report.

(Published: December 2, 2004)
 

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Yarmouth P.D., I can only imagine the effect that this ruling has on your department & Erickson's family. I'm truly sorry to hear of this ruling.

I have worked several Todesca details & refuse to do so any more. I don't believe that they take the neccesary precautions to ensure the safety of those who work at their sites.
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"Todesca was later cited and fined $28,000 after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that Gauthier's truck had excessively tinted side windows, a cracked windshield, inoperable brakes, no backup alarm, and no employee acting an as observer as the truck backed up. "
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Swell...the truck was not properly maintained, but Officer Erickson was apparently "at fault" according to the appellate court. I guess the operator of the truck had no mirrors, or wasn't paying attention.

I know, I wasn't there...it just seems to me that the truck driver was at fault...I'd like to see his post trip inspection from the previous day... :evil:

Well, on the bright side, the SJC found a constitutional right to "queer marriages", so I reckon they can find in the PO's favor....

In a pig's eye.
:evil:
 
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