WORCESTER (CBS) – Testimony began Monday in the trial of the man charged with driving high on marijuana and causing the death of a Massachusetts State Police trooper.
Prosecutors say 33-year-old David Njuguna of Webster was speeding when he crashed into the back of Trooper Thomas Clardy’s parked cruiser on the Massachusetts Turnpike in Charlton on March 16, 2016.
Clardy was conducting a traffic stop at the time. He was 44 years old and an 11-year veteran of State Police. Clardy left behind his wife and seven children. His widow Reisa was the first witness to take the stand in Worcester Superior Court. She described the last time she saw her husband alive, talking about their children.
“(I) just told him I loved him and watched back out of the driveway,” she testified.
Njuguna is under indictment on several charges including manslaughter and motor vehicle homicide while under the influence of drugs. Prosecutors say marijuana was found in his car and THC was found in blood samples taken from him roughly an hour after the crash.
“The death of Trooper Clardy on this date was no accident,” Prosecutor Jeff Travers said during his opening statement.
Njuguna bought marijuana from a medical marijuana dispensary roughly an hour before the incident, but his defense team claims he crashed because he experienced a seizure, not because of marijuana use.
“This is not a marijuana impaired driving case or a negligent driving case. It is a medical event tragedy,” Defense Attorney Peter Ettenberg said.
Ettenberg also said he will present evidence showing that there is no way to prove Njuguna was under the influence of marijuana on the day of the crash.
“In Massachusetts there is no threshold, there is no drug recognition expert, there are no coordination tests,” he said.
Prosecution witness Christopher Lindsay testified Monday he saw a dark Nissan travel across three lanes of traffic on the Pike that day and hit the back corner of Clardy’s cruiser.
Other witnesses also testified about what they saw before and after the crash.
Njuguna waived his right to a jury and will instead face a bench trial in Worcester Superior Court where a judge will decide his fate.