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Canada Cannabis News: Judge-alone trial begins for Saskatoon woman charged with THC-impaired driving causing death

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A Saskatoon police officer says the aftermath of the collision that killed nine-year-old Baeleigh Maurice “was one of the most chaotic scenes I’ve ever been to.”

Const. Blake Atkinson made the observation Tuesday while testifying at Taylor Kennedy’s judge-alone trial at provincial court in Saskatoon. Kennedy, 28, is charged with THC-impaired driving causing death. It’s alleged she had THC in her system when she hit Maurice at around 9 a.m. CST on Sept. 9, 2021.

Two officers who testified Tuesday described a police service that, in 2021, was still learning about how to detect and test for possible drug impairment in the field. For example, there were only a handful of Saskatoon officers trained in using the drug detection equipment at the time.

Atkinson had basic field sobriety testing training, but said that he did not initially suspect Kennedy of being impaired. His first inkling that she may have had intoxicants in her system came when another officer said that Kennedy had volunteered how she had microdosed psilocybin mushrooms and cannabis in the previous 24 hours.

She had taken the drugs because she was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, ADHD, anxiety and depression, court heard. She also had previous incidents of self harm.

Atkinson said police called in every available unit working that morning to help manage the growing scene. He said people from the neighbourhood rapidly gathered on foot at the intersection of 33rd Street and Avenue G — some threatening Kennedy with death — while officers provided first aid to the grieviously-injured nine year old as she lay on the street.

She died in hospital.

Atkinson stayed with Kennedy, first sitting with her on a curb and then standing near a police SUV while she sat in the back.

“She was literally trembling all over, repeating herself over and over, shaking and hyperventilating,” he said.

The SUV’s camera captured her vomiting, collapsing and curled on her side on the back seat. That said, Atkinson offered that Kennedy showed no obvious signs of impairment and did not try to leave the scene.

crash
Police were on the scene of this area of 33rd Street W in Saskatoon after the collision. (Matthew Garand/CBC News)

At one point, the video shows Kennedy calling her mother from the back of the SUV and managing to say “Mom, I hit a child … it was an accident.”

Atkinson can be heard in the video saying “you’re not going to jail.” Under questioning by prosecutor Michael Pilon, Atkinson said that he offered that assurance because Kennedy had not failed a roadside impairment test. Atkinson also said that Kennedy was not read her rights, or given a right to call counsel, in the first hour.

Const. Patrick Foster administered the “SoToxa” test, which detects THC in a saliva swab, 90 minutes after the crash. The test gives a pass or fail result depending on if someone has more than 25 nanograms of THC in their system. Foster said Kennedy tested positive.

Foster said that he chose against doing a field sobriety test because her traumatic response to the accident — tremors, vomiting, collapsing — could also be confused with symptoms of intoxication. Further, he said that her condition at the scene “did not warrant her arrest on the spot.”

The trial continues all week.

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