Tuesday, October 03, 2000

Woman's conviction overturned in death of motorcyclist

By Sheila McLaughlin
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MASON — A West Chester Township woman who was found guilty of vehicular homicide in the 1999 death of motorcyclist Bobby Marshall is headed back to trial after a state appeals court overturned her conviction.

        The Ohio 12th District Court of Appeals ruled Monday that Mason Municipal Judge David Batsche should have granted Janet Kortum's request for a mistrial when it was discovered that the speed limit at the scene of the crash was erroneously reported on a state trooper's crash report.

        That information surfaced in the second day of trial when the trooper realized his error and told the prosecutor.

        The midtrial discovery put Mrs. Kortum's lawyers at a disadvantage because they had based their defense on a contention that Mr. Marshall was speeding at the time of the fatal crash Aug. 5, 1999, the appeals court ruled.

        The speed limit is not posted, but automatically changes from 45 mph to 55 mph near the intersection, which is close to the Mason and Deerfield Township line. However, Trooper Paul Lezotte was under the impression that the speed limit was 45 mph, the court decision said.

        Mrs. Kortum's lawyer, Martin Pinales, tried to convince a jury that Mr. Marshall, 49, of Mason, was killed after he drove out from behind slowed traffic and sped through the intersection at Mason Montgomery and Irwin Simpson roads as Mrs. Kortum was turning left.

        Mr. Marshall's motorcycle struck Mrs. Kortum's van, and Mr. Marshall, who was not wearing a helmet, died from severe head injuries.

        Reconstruction of the crash indicated that Mr. Marshall was traveling 48 mph, which is seven miles under the actual speed limit, Mr. Pinales said.

        After a jury convicted Mrs. Kortum, she received a suspended six-month sentence, was ordered to serve 120 hours of community service, and had her driver's license suspended for two years.

        Mr. Pinales said he welcomes another chance to defend his client. “We are pleased that ultimately the right decision has been made. We would look forward to a second trial,” he said.

        Mason Prosecutor Robert Peeler said the appeals decision makes his case stronger and destroys Mr. Pinales' defense.


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