March 17, 2014 - Tyler Festa thought the criminal charges against him were dropped, but Monday he arrived the Erie County Courthouse for jury selection and opening statements in the criminal trial against him. Festa is charged with homicide by motor vehicle, involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment and simple assault after the December 20th 2011 incident where he struck and killed 13-year-old Ashley Clark and injured another teen along Route 97 when they were in the process of crossing the street to board their approaching school bus. The criminal charges were originally dropped after Erie County Judge Shad Connelly ruled that evidence suggested there was no criminal intent in the case. The Erie County District Attorney's office appealed that decision to the PA Superior and Supreme Court and won. The prosecution claims Festa acted with gross recklessness because he did not proceed with caution when he saw the amber lights flashing on the school bus. The defense will argue that he was driving under the speed limit, and reacted under the appropriate perception/reaction time once he saw the buses amber lights. Earlier this morning Erie County Judge John Trucilla met with the DA’s office along with the defense for a pre-trial hearing on what evidence would be admissible in court.
A video will be played, that the DA called a visibility study to show the jury at what distance the amber bus lights are visible in darkness. Also the defense will call a witness - retired State Trooper Kevin Forcier - who is an accident reconstruction expert - to present his take on whether or not Festa was operating his vehicle in a reasonable manner. Jury selection took a few hours and 14 jurors were selected. Opening statements began late in the afternoon. The trial is expected to last a least a couple of days.
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