Victim's alcohol level revealed.
Springfield murder suspect Gerald Strebendt's attorney argued Wednesday in court that prosecutors are not entitled to tell a jury about alleged road rage incidents involving his client in the years before he shot and killed a man after a traffic collision.
But while making that point, defense lawyer Mike Arnold also asserted that shooting victim David Crofut's blood alcohol level on the night of the fatal confrontation was nearly double the presumed legal limit for intoxicated drivers. That, Arnold argued, is a relevant fact in the case.
Arnold also blamed Crofut for causing the crash on Bob Straub Parkway, and said Crofut had grabbed at Strebendt's gun before being shot.
Arnold's unexpected disclosure of previously unreleased information came during a pretrial hearing that had been scheduled to let attorneys argue about whether a jury in Strebendt's as-yet-unscheduled trial should be allowed to hear about his alleged history of aggressive driving. Judge Debra Vogt will issue a ruling on that issue at a later date.
Rather than disregard Arnold's comments about Crofut, prosecutor Bob Lane referred to them in his response to the defense attorney's argument.
Arnold's hourlong presentation "sounded a lot like an opening statement or a closing argument" at trial, Lane told Vogt, who in April issued a gag order barring lawyers and attorneys from publicly discussing details of the high-profile case in an attempt to limit pretrial publicity.
Lane suggested that Arnold - who before Vogt's order said publicly on several occasions that Strebendt had legally shot Crofut in self-defense - had used his time in court to accuse Crofut of wrongdoing in order "to funnel facts to the press, and get around the gag order."
Vogt said she "absolutely" agreed with the prosecutor's supposition.
Arnold said Crofut's blood alcohol level measured 0.156 percent on the night of the crash. That's nearly twice the presumed "legal limit" for intoxicated driving in Oregon, which is 0.08 percent.
Crofut's wife testified previously that she and her 53-year-old husband had consumed alcohol at a Springfield tavern before the Jan. 29, 2014, shooting. The couple had moved to Springfield from Tacoma less than two months before the incident.
Arnold told Vogt that Crofut's blood alcohol level is relevant because it supports Strebendt's allegation that Crofut had been "acting aggressively" before the shooting.
Lane, meanwhile, said evidence points to Strebendt - a former professional mixed-martial- arts fighter and military sniper - as being the "initial aggressor."
Lane said prosecutors will show a jury that Strebendt saw Crofut's sport utility vehicle make an illegal right turn, and responded by chasing down Crofut in his pickup. Strebendt then allegedly pulled in front of Crofut's vehicle and stopped, causing the SUV's front end to strike the back of his pickup. Lane argued that jurors should be made aware of other run-ins that Strebendt has had with motorists, to give them an idea about Strebendt's "state of mind" when he allegedly drove after Crofut's SUV.
Strebendt had never before been accused of pulling a gun on another motorist, and Arnold contends that the incidents that Lane wants to reveal to a jury are not similar enough to the events that led to Crofut's death to be considered proper trial evidence.
He also said a data recorder in the SUV indicates that Crofut had stopped his vehicle in the road and then went "pedal to the metal" for a few seconds until colliding with Strebendt's truck.
Arnold added that Crofut's DNA was found on the barrel handguard of Strebendt's semi automatic rifle, which the attorney said supports Strebendt's comment to an emergency dispatcher that Crofut had "reached for" the gun before being shot.
Strebendt called 911 after the traffic collision, and was on the phone with the dispatcher when he shot Crofut, whose body was found more than 60 feet in front of Strebendt's pickup. Arnold indicated that he will argue at trial that Crofut followed Strebendt away from the immediate crash scene before the shooting.
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|Title Annotation:||Courts; Gerald Strebendt's defense attorney says David Crofut had nearly twice the legal driving limit in his blood|
|Publication:||The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)|
|Date:||Feb 19, 2015|
|Previous Article:||Around the region.|