PORT TOWNSEND — Jury selection will begin Monday in a trial anticipated to last two weeks as a Port Townsend man faces a vehicular homicide charge.
The charges stem from the death of a bicyclist Marcus Henthorn, an artist who served on a transportation advisory board, in March 2018.
Patrick Cleon McConnell, 64, also faces charges of driving under the influence of marijuana when he allegedly turned into the intersection at 19th and Landes streets in front of a bicyclist.
Henthorn was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where he later died. He was 75.
Vehicular homicide is a Class A felony punishable by a maximum of life in prison and/or a $50,000 fine.
Charges were filed in the case last December, nearly nine months after the wreck, the delay caused by Port Townsend police applying for a search warrant to draw blood from McConnell.
Those samples were tested last year between July and October with a presumptive positive for cannabinoids that found the presence of Carboxy-THC, according to court documents.
McConnell’s blood also tested positive for Gabapentin, an anti-convulsant that is not considered a controlled substance, the court records indicated.
Superior Court Judge Keith Harper upheld the defense motion last week to exclude expert testimony from an optometrist with specialized knowledge about the effects of horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) on vision.
HGN is a test administered by a trained police officer that has six potential clues of impairment.
Court documents state McConnell exhibited five of those six clues during a test conducted by State Trooper Alisha E. Gruszewski.
“Based on my training and experience, I know that five of six clues indicates impairment,” Port Townsend Police Officer Mark Dumond wrote in his probable cause statement.
Deputy prosecuting attorney Julie St. Marie argued that Dr. Karl Citek wasn’t going to testify on a specific level of impairment. Instead, the professor at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Ore., planned to discuss HGN, described as “the ability of the eyes to maintain visual fixation as they turn from side to side or move from center focus to the point of maximum deviation at the side.”
“Just as an orthopedic physician is qualified to testify that a person with a broken leg will have difficulty walking, an optometrist whose life work has focused upon the effects of HGN upon the ability to see can testify that the presence of HGN compromises peripheral vision,” St. Marie wrote in her response.
Citek has provided past testimony in several national trials but also has taken the witness stand in regional cases in both Mason and Pierce counties.
Harper’s decision to strike the evidence from Citek was made Wednesday, and he denied the state’s motion to reconsider on Thursday, saying the defense has “no meaningful opportunity to respond.”
The state still has an extensive list of witnesses, including several officers, a detective and a sergeant from the Port Townsend Police Department and a number of state troopers. Two drug recognition experts are on the state’s list, too.
The defense has five witnesses who may testify, including a medical doctor and an accident reconstruction specialist.
The police report indicates McConnell was driving a maroon Hyundai Sonata eastbound on 19th Street, the same direction two bicyclists were traveling in a marked bike lane.
When they reached Landes Street, McConnell turned right in front of Henthorn, who applied his brakes and was thrown over the handlebars. Henthorn, who was wearing a helmet, struck the rear passenger side of McConnell’s vehicle before he landed on the ground head-first.
Responding police officers started cardio-pulmonary resuscitation. Firefighter/paramedics from East Jefferson Fire-Rescue continued live-saving measures when they arrived.
Henthorn regained a pulse about 10 minutes later, but he was in critical condition when he was flown to Harborview.
Henthorn was a popular landscape artist represented by the Port Townsend Gallery and the Main Street Gallery in Glenwood Springs, Colo.
He also served on the city’s active transportation advisory board, formerly called the non-motorized transportation advisory board.
Jefferson County Managing Editor Brian McLean can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 6, or at [email protected].