Prosecution Rests in Janklow Trial

Prosecutors rested their case Wednesday in Rep. Bill Janklow's (search) manslaughter trial after a witness told the jury that Janklow nearly hit her family at the same intersection where the congressman and a motorcyclist collided.

The bulk of Janklow's defense is planned for Thursday.

Janklow, 64, is charged with manslaughter, reckless driving, running a stop sign and speeding during an Aug. 16 accident at a rural intersection that killed Randy Scott (search), 55, a motorcyclist from Hardwick, Minn.

Jennifer Walters of Trent testified Wednesday about the close call at the same intersection on Dec. 29.

She and her family were traveling east when a when a speeding white Cadillac ran the stop sign from the south and missed their pickup by mere feet, Walters said.

Walters said she "heard tires screeching and gravel kicking up," turned around and saw the car's back bumper. "I wouldn't doubt that pebbles of gravel hit our truck."

She called 911 to report it and Moody County Deputy Sheriff Tony Aas said that about 10 minutes later he stopped the Cadillac just outside of Flandreau. Janklow was the driver and he was doing 92 mph in a 65 mph, though the officer locked his radar on at 86, he testified.

The defense contends a diabetic reaction caused Janklow to miss the stop sign, but prosecutors say he knowingly sped through the intersection at more than 70 mph. Janklow had a stop sign; Scott did not.

Another prosecution witness, emergency medical technician Mark Bonrud, said Janklow did not appear to be suffering from low blood sugar after the crash. But he said Janklow did accept a Coke and some candy at the scene — two items that diabetics do not usually take unless they are low on sugar.

Bonrud said Janklow told him he did have something to eat or drink earlier.

Chris Braendlin, a Janklow aide who was in the car with the congressman, testified earlier Wednesday that Janklow did not have anything to eat all day on Aug. 16.

Braendlin said he saw a motorcycle right before the crash.

"This is one event. And I can't recall what order," Braendlin testified. "It was motorcycle, flash, spinning."

Braendlin testified that Janklow seemed fine on the trip from Aberdeen and recalls slowing down before the collision.

"I remember slowing down but I don't remember where," he said.

Also Wednesday, Highway Patrol Sgt. Gene Barthel, an accident reconstructionist, estimated Scott was going 59 mph and Janklow was going 71 mph in the 55-mph zone.

Barthel used a large map to show jurors the location of roads, stop signs and other landmarks, and where the Cadillac, the motorcycle and Scott's body came to rest.

Barthel said he could not retrieve information from a computer on the Cadillac because his department was unable to find anyone to download the data. It would not show the speed but would show how the car decelerated, he said.

Janklow's defense lawyer, Ed Evans, did find an expert to get the information and suggested Barthel could have tried different methods to determine speed.

Prosecutors have said Janklow was going 80-90 mph in the minutes before the crash.

Janklow is one of South Dakota's most popular politicians. The Republican served four terms as governor before being elected to the House in 2002.

If convicted of manslaughter, the maximum punishment is 10 years in prison. It would also prompt the House ethics committee to investigate.

The committee's rules say representatives who plead guilty or are convicted of a crime that carries two or more years in prison should refrain from voting or taking part in committee meetings in the chamber until his or her record is cleared or until re-elected.