By Kelly Wheeler
City News Service
A prosecutor told jurors Tuesday that a motorist was under the influence of marijuana when he drove onto a La Jolla sidewalk and hit three teens, then crashed into a bakery, but a defense attorney argued his client likely suffered a seizure.
Ronald Troyer, 66, faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted of driving under the influence of drugs causing great bodily injuries, reckless driving causing injuries, failing to perform his duties following an accident that caused permanent injuries and driving on a suspended license.
Following Tuesday's closing arguments Jury deliberations got under way in the courtroom of Judge William Kronberger Jr.
Deputy District Attorney David Uyar said in his closing that Troyer had smoked marijuana at some point before his car plowed into the teenagers and bakery, also injuring two adults, about 6:30 p.m. last Aug. 15 on La Jolla Boulevard.
Uyar said Troyer tried to shift the blame away from himself after the crash, saying things like, "Oh this is bad," "Someone stole my car,'' "I wasn't driving'' and "I must have blacked out," along with blaming the crash on mechanical failure.
"It's just outrageous,'" Uyar said of Troyer's alleged attempts to shift the blame to others. "It's ridiculous."
Uyar said Troyer's blood was drawn three hours after the crash, and marijuana was found in his system.
Witnesses at the crash scene thought Troyer was under the influence of something, the prosecutor said. The notion that the marijuana detected in Troyer's system had been there for a week was "rubbish."
"He smoked recently," Uyar told the jury.
Defense attorney David Thompson told the jury in his closing argument that there was reasonable doubt that Troyer was under the influence of marijuana or any other substance.
Thompson said Troyer was driving normally before the crash, then "all of a sudden, something happened."
"That could have been the seizure right there," the defense attorney said. "Something happened in his body and it wasn't the pot. Seizures don't give notice."
Passenger Jeffrey Stewart testified during the trial that he tried to get Troyer to pull over just before the crash.
Stewart, who described Troyer as a friend, said they were driving toward a scenic vista to look at the surf when the defendant spotted a classic 1956 Chevrolet carrying some young people and then, without explanation, took his foot off the accelerator and coasted at a slow speed.
When the vehicle struck the curb of a roundabout, Stewart said he suggested to Troyer that he stop driving but instead of stopping, Troyer straightened out the sedan, "put the pedal to the metal" and took his hands off the steering wheel.
"He just kind of punched it and fell back in his seat," Stewart said. "I feel there is something wrong with this man.''
He said he tried to put his own foot on the brake and braced for a collision.
The defendant's eyes showed a "piercing madness" and "some type of anger," Stewart said.
He said Troyer did not say a word as they "barreled" over another roundabout, hit the teens and went into the Cass Street Cafe & Bakery, or in the moments immediately after the crash.
One of the teens was pinned under the vehicle when it stopped, and a man in the restaurant re-injured a knee on which he had just had surgery.