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Jury finds Everson driver guilty of vehicular homicide in crash that killed motorcyclist

The Modesto Bee

A jury found an Everson man guilty of vehicular homicide Wednesday for a crash that left a motorcycle rider dead nearly two years aednesday for a crash that left a motorcycle rider dead nearly two years ago.

A white Chevy Suburban collided almost head-on with a Honda motorcycle around 8:50 p.m. Dec. 5, 2014, as the SUV turned left from Kale Street to Christopher Lane in Everson.

Brian Jeffery Smith, 33, told state troopers he didn’t see the oncoming motorcycle. He also said he didn’t have anything to drink that night. That was a lie, told out of fear, Smith testified this week on the witness stand. He told the courtroom he drank one beer in his wife’s car outside the Rusty Wagon, a restaurant on Hannegan Road. Then he got into his Chevy to drive home.

That night Jason Lyle “Bone” Schuyleman, of Whatcom County, died in surgery at St. Joseph hospital. He was 38.

A jury of six men and six women heard seven days of testimony from Washington State Patrol troopers, nurses, an emergency room doctor, a crash reconstruction expert, servers at the Rusty Wagon, and the defendant himself.

After a full day of deliberating, the jury at around 2 p.m. on Wednesday found Smith guilty as charged – one count of vehicular homicide and one count of obstructing law enforcement.

At the hospital following the 2014 incident Smith resisted a blood draw for hours. In his version of events, he asked medical staff: What if giving blood was against my religion? Then, when a doctor suggested he take a sedative to make it easier, Smith said he asked: How did the doctors know he wasn’t allergic to sedatives?

Hospital staff testified those statements were declarative, as in, Smith claimed giving blood was against his religion, and that he would suffer cardiac arrest if given any sedative. Smith yanked his arms away whenever a phlebotomist tried to draw his blood.

Smith continued to fight over the hours that followed. Eventually he was sedated against his will, and his blood was drawn 4½ hours after the crash. A sample tested at a blood-alcohol content of 0.05 percent, below the legal limit. At the standard burn-off rate of 0.015 per hour, Smith would have been above the limit at the time of the crash, according to experts for both the defense and prosecution.

That’s still a guess, however, defense attorney Mark Kaiman emphasized in his closing argument. The defense pointed out to jurors that the headlight on Schuyleman’s motorcycle flickered off and on when tested after the crash, and that it might have malfunctioned at the time of the collision, too.

Jurors weren’t swayed by that argument. The headlamp and other frontal lights on the motorcycle were glowing in crash scene photos presented to the jury by the prosecution.

A sentencing date remains to be scheduled.

Caleb Hutton: 360-715-2276, @bhamcaleb

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