WOBURN (CBS) — The defense rested Wednesday in the trial against Brad Casler, the driver involved in the 2016 deadly Sweet Tomatoes crash. Calser, 57, faces two motor vehicle homicide charges after his S.U.V. drove through an intersection in Newton and crashed through the Sweet Tomatoes pizza shop, killing 32-year-old Gregory Morin and 57-year-old Eleanor Miele.
His attorney has blamed Casler’s multiple sclerosis for the crash and said he should not be held criminally responsible.
On Wednesday, multiple sclerosis expert Dr. Ellen Lahti with The Elliot Lewis Center for Multiple Sclerosis Care continued her testimony from one day prior. She described in detail the medical effects of multiple sclerosis on people.
“MS is a disease of loss. These are people who have lost relationships, lost employment, lost their ability to play sports, lost their ability to climb up on the bleachers to watch their kid play a game at a sports event. It’s all about loss. From day one, you’re given a sentence that you’re never gonna get away from this. It can only get worse, it’s likely not going to get better,” she said.
“Most patients don’t have a good awareness of their intellectual deficiency. We see this all the time that when we do testing, the testing comes out badly even though the patient thinks they are fine,” said Lahi. Therefore, she testified, people with multiple sclerosis are not necessarily responsible for their own decision to stop driving because of the disconnect they have with their abilities.
She also testified that driving with multiple sclerosis is a big topic of discussion in her office and among her patients, particularly those with chronic multiple sclerosis, which Casler has, but said other doctors may not have the time to discuss it.
Often, patients don’t know or admit to themselves that they shouldn’t be driving. Lahi cited research, “we know that approximately 22 percent of patients are unfit to drive based on a formal road safety test, even though they are completely unaware of that.”
Casler, at once point in years past, told a nurse practitioner that he felt his cognition was insufficient. Lahi testified that cognitive ability was already affecting Casler’s ability to drive in 2016.
“We encourage people to do what they love, but at any moment things can change so that you lose your concentration, you can’t think clearly.”
Doctors in the state of Massachusetts can alert the Registry of Motor Vehicles that they believe a particular person with multiple sclerosis should not drive, but, Lahi said at least for her office, it is not common practice.
Instead, Lahi would likely send patients to a formal driving evaluation. Lahi testified that if Casler had gone to her office, she would have started by giving him a cognition screening. “If the screen is abnormal — and I anticipate based on my review of the medical records that it would have been abnormal — then we would have done one or two things: referred a patient for formal neurological testing…and referred the patient for a driving evaluation.”
Casler was never told by his doctors to be evaluated.
Casler testified in his own defense Tuesday that he has no recollection of the crash or the event immediately following it, such as possibly discussing his multiple sclerosis with EMTs.
“As I’m driving I felt weird, my body felt strange to me, which has never happened before and I didn’t know what was going on and I said to him, ‘I have to get off the phone’… The car was speeding up and I just didn’t know what was happening and I just couldn’t control it at that time,” he said. “It haunts me every day that I don’t know what happened. I just don’t remember. I think about it all day long, I think about it at night, I wake up and shake at night lately.”
The next thing Casler remembers, he said, was being in the hospital.