Rep. Bill Janklow lied to officers at the scene of a deadly accident and deserves to be convicted of manslaughter even if he did suffer a diabetic reaction that day as he claims, a prosecutor said Monday in his closing argument. The jury began deliberations later.
“THE DEFENDANT’S driving is like a deadly game of Russian roulette,” deputy prosecutor Roger Ellyson said. “On August 16, Randy Scott took the bullet.”
Janklow, 64, is charged with reckless driving, running a stop sign, speeding and second-degree manslaughter for the Aug. 16 crash at a rural intersection that killed Scott, a 55-year-old motorcyclist. If convicted of manslaughter, a felony, Janklow could face up to 10 years in prison as well as a House ethics committee investigation.
The prosecution and defense spent Monday morning summing up their cases, and the jury got the case shortly before 1 p.m. (2 p.m. ET).
But Ellyson said Janklow lied about what happened to three different officers at the scene. Janklow had told two troopers and a deputy that he was trying to avoid a white car when the accident occurred.
‘UNBELIEVABLY AWFUL AND MENACING’
Janklow’s driving is “unbelievably awful and menacing,” Ellyson said. “His driving causes him to tell false stories.”
In his closing argument, defense lawyer Ed Evans said investigators and prosecutors quickly concluded Janklow must have sped through the stop sign and did not want to know the truth. Because of that, they were not interested in finding out if a diabetic condition was to blame, he said.
“Did they ever even consider it?” Evans asked. “What happened to fairness? What happened to presumption of innocence? What happened to looking for the truth?”
Evans held up Janklow’s mangled glasses and asked how he could not have suffered a head injury. That explains why Janklow thought he was hit by a white car and made other unreliable statements, Evans said.
Evans said prosecutors are wrong to claim that Janklow recklessly sped through the stop sign before crashing with Scott.
“Does it make sense that you drive through a blind intersection, risking your own life, the life of your passenger and the life of others?” Evans asked jurors. “My definition of Russian roulette is putting the gun to your head and not somebody else’s.”
Janklow took notes during closing arguments, occasionally looking up. Some of his family members sitting behind him cried during the prosecution’s arguments. Scott’s mother and other Scott family supporters sat in the front rows behind prosecutors, across from Janklow’s friends and family.
A tearful Janklow testified Saturday that a tight schedule had kept him from eating, even though he knew the risk of taking his insulin and not eating.
‘I JUST PLAIN FORGOT’
“I just plain forgot,” he said. “I’ve asked myself that 10 million times since this day.”
Janklow also has said he was taking the heart medication but stopped using it on his own sometime after the accident.
Hospital lists of his medication after the accident do not include the medication, Atenolol, and a doctor testified Saturday that he found no indication in Janklow’s records he was on the drug the day of the crash.
Janklow denied running a stop sign nearly a year ago at the same intersection and nearly hitting the truck of a woman who testified earlier in the trial. The woman said she didn’t pursue charges against Janklow because he was governor at the time.
Under the committee’s rules, representatives convicted of a crime that carries two or more years in prison should refrain from voting in the chamber until they are cleared or are re-elected.
The ethics committee could issue a critical report, with no other action required. It could also recommend a House resolution reprimanding him, censuring him or even expelling him.
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