PITTSFIELD -- It took jurors 15 minutes to decide the fate of 73-year-old Katheryne C. Welch.
The Lenox woman was found not guilty on Tuesday of vehicular homicide in connection with an accident in June 2012 that killed a Pittsfield man who was riding a mobility scooter.
"It was a tragic accident for which [my client] was not responsible," attorney William A. Rota told the jury of four women and two men.
Welch was driving eastbound on Henry Avenue in her 2011 Nissan Rogue about 12:20 p.m. on June 26, 2012, when she stopped at the four-way stop, looked both ways, and slowly pulled out into the intersection with Elizabeth Street.
She heard "a bump" and saw "a flash" out of the corner of her eye as she struck John Siwek, 84, of Boylston Street, who riding his scooter heading south on Elizabeth Street. The flash likely was the American flag that adorned the back of the scooter.
Siwek was taken to Berkshire Medical Center, where he died three days later from his injuries.
"I didn't see him at all," Welch told the court on Tuesday during her daylong Jury of Six trial in Central Berkshire District Court.
Pittsfield Police Officer Marc Maddalena, the agency's accident investigator, called it a "low impact collision" and estimated Welch had been going between zero and 5 mph. Welch believed she was going about 2 mph.
Welch initially was charged with vehicular homicide by negligent operation, negligent operation of a motor vehicle and a bylaw violation. The negligent operation charge was dismissed by the prosecution prior to trial. Judge Paul M. Vrabel later found Welch not responsible for the violation.
Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Daniel Hespeler called it a "case about negligence" and told the jury that Welch had failed in her "duty of care" as a driver.
Rota said his client was heading uphill on Henry Avenue and had an obscured view up Elizabeth Street due to a fence. Police never determined if Siwek had been on the sidewalk or driving his scooter on the street before the collision, said the attorney. He calculated that Siwek could have been traveling as fast as 4 mph at the time of the accident.
During the trial the jury was taken by bus to view the accident scene. At the time of the accident there had been no crosswalk at the four way stop. A crosswalk has been added since then.
During final summations Hespeler told the jury Welch "didn't use the care a reasonably prudent person would."
Rota said the prosecution failed to find his client criminally negligent and asked the jury to determine the same.
"It's sad. It's tragic, but it's not her fault," he told the jury.
Welch, who requires an oxygen tank, looked relieved after the verdict was read. Her family also let out a communal sigh of relief at the words "not guilty."
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