DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. – The jury trial has begun for the truck driver accused of hitting and killing Colorado State Patrol Trooper Cody Donahue as he investigated a crash on I-25 in November of 2016.
During the nine-day trial, the jury will have to decide if Noe Gamez-Ruiz was criminally negligent in causing Donahue’s death or if the trooper’s death was just an accident with no one to blame.
Donahue, one of two troopers responding to a crash on the afternoon of November 26, 2016, was inside the shoulder of the northbound lanes of I-25 near mile marker 179 when Gamez-Ruiz drifted over the solid white line, hitting and killing Donahue, according to the Douglas County Sheriff’s office.
In his opening statement, defense attorney Harvey Steinberg told jurors Tuesday not to be swayed by emotions associated with the death of a law enforcement officer, according to our partners at The Denver Post.
“This was a terrible, tragic, unbelievable accident, but it’s that and nothing more,” said Steinberg during the first day of the trial, the Post reported.
Jake Adkins, a senior deputy district attorney with the 18th Judicial District, on the other hand, told jurors Gamez-Ruiz allowed his truck to drift toward the shoulder, without changing lanes or centering his truck in the lane of travel, the newspaper reported.
At the time of Donahue’s death, no law existed in the books mandating drivers to change lanes when spotting a law enforcement officer responding to a crash.
That changed last year, when Gov. John Hickenlooper signed the “Move Over for Cody Act,” which added jail time and monetary fines for drivers who fail to change lanes for emergency responders, highway workers or tow-truck drivers.
Donahue’s death was the third to happen to a state trooper responding to a crash on a busy roadway in the last three years.
In November of 2015, CSP Trooper Jaimie Jursevics was struck and killed by a drunk driver near the area where Donahue was hit and killed a year later. Six months prior, CSP Cadet Taylor Thyfault was hit and killed by a vehicle that was fleeing from other officers on Colorado Highway 66.
Gamez-Ruiz is facing charges of criminally negligent homicide, failure to yield the right of way to a stationary emergency vehicle and careless driving causing death.
The trial will go through Sept. 21.