Vt. Texting Trial Gets Underway - NECN

Vt. Texting Trial Gets Underway



    A young driver denies she was sending text messages when she struck a pedestrian (Published Friday, Jan. 17, 2014)

    (NECN: Jack Thurston, Burlington, Vt.) - Emma Vieira, 19, of Colchester, Vt. became emotional in a Burlington courtroom Tuesday as prosecutors played a 911 tape from August of 2011. The digital recording captured Vieira's frantic call to emergency responders after the young driver struck a woman walking her dog on a Colchester road. 

    "Are they conscious and breathing?" the call-taker asked Vieira on the recording. "I don't know!" she answered in a tearful voice.
    Vieira admits to hitting Debbie Drewniak with her car, but the events leading up to that are in dispute. Police and prosecutors have alleged Vieira was text messaging while driving, something that's banned in Vermont, and she was too distracted to see Drewniak and her dog. 

    "Between the time she called 911 and the time she gave her cell phone to the police officer at her request, she erased all the text messages on her phone," deputy Chittenden County prosecutor Paul Finnerty told the jury in his opening statements Tuesday.

    "There's not one sliver of evidence to support this claim," defense attorney Sarah Reed countered in her remarks at the opening of the trial.

    Reed insisted Vieira was not texting right before the crash, claiming the teen sent her last note before leaving her own road, which Reed said is just 45 seconds around the corner from the crash site. Reed also said there is no evidence that Vieira was driving recklessly.

    The defense attorney said any driver could've hit Drewniak that dark night, blaming a poorly-lit road and the pedestrian's black shirt and pants for what Reed called a "tragic accident." 

    "You will hear her clothing choice acted as camouflage," she told the jurors.

    Reed told WPTZ-TV that it is unlikely that Emma Vieira will testify in her own defense. 

    The collision killed Drewniak's dog and left her with permanent physical damage. She told New England Cable News she wants to see drivers put down their cell phones when they pick up their car keys. 

    "Stop texting while you're driving," Drewniak said in a strained voice, at times hard to understand. "Shut the phone off and put it away."

    The trial is expected to last the rest of the week. 

    If Emma Vieira is found guilty, she faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.