Trial Starts for Lusk Man Charged with Aggravated Vehicular Homicide
Lusk resident Alexander Sebastian Richardson went on trial Monday for three charges related to the deaths of a woman and her child, and the injury of her husband after a head-on collision southwest of Casper in August 2017.
Monday morning, the prosecution and defense under presiding Natrona County District Court Judge Kerri Johnson selected the seven-man, six-woman jury (including one alternate) for the estimated five-day trial.
Richardson is charged with two counts of aggravated vehicular homicide and one count of aggravated assault as a result of his Ford F-250 drifting across the center line of Wyoming Highway 220 into the westbound lane, where it collided with a Ford Explorer carrying 46-year-old Soon Young Lee, Bong Jun Seo and 3-year-old Jaehyeok Seo.
Richardson could face up to 50 years in prison if convicted on all charges.
He pleaded not guilty during his arraignment in August, and has been free on a $7,500 bond.
Monday afternoon, the attorneys presented their opening statements.
Assistant District Attorney Ava Bell told the jury members they heard the word "accident" when they were being questioned that morning, but the prosecution no longer will use that word because it implies "mistake."
When happened on a clear, warm August 23, 2017, was a crash with three possible causes -- environmental, mechanical and human, she said. "This (human cause) is what this case is about."
The prosecution, Bell said, will call 12 witnesses:
- The dispatcher who received the initial call about the crash.
- The registered nurse who saw smoke in the distance, stopped at the scene, and tried cardiopulmonary resuscitation for more than an hour on the infant.
- A man who came upon the scene and spoke with Richardson.
- The first law enforcement officer on the scene.
- A paramedic who was in charge of taking Richardson to the Wyoming Medical Center.
- A doctor at the hospital who heard a statement from Richardson.
- A Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper.
- A Natrona County Sheriff's deputy who recorded a statement from Richardson.
- Bong Jun Seo.
- Seo's doctor at the hospital.
- The county's chief deputy coroner.
- A crash reconstruction specialist with the Wyoming Highway Patrol.
The crash was caused entirely by human error, Bell said. Richardson was in Roosevelt, Utah, at a job site, worked a 12-hour shift, began driving to Lusk without a nap or a rest, and was awake for 22 hours when the crash happened.
What happened was Richardson's decision, and she asked the jury to convict him
But Richardson's attorney Don Fuller, in his opening statement, insisted on calling the event an accident.
Richardson has admitted that it is his fault, has great remorse, and knows that it has changed his life forever as it has Seo's, Fuller said.
Whether this was criminal is another matter, he said.
"It does look like he fell asleep at the wheel," Fuller said. The question is not whether it was tragic, but whether it was a homicide, he said.
Fuller recounted Richardson's life, how he met his wife and now has two children.
He also disputed the prosecution's apparently contradictory statements about how long the drive would have taken including a two-and-a-half hour gap unexplained by the current timeline.
The state's also witnesses gave contradictory accounts of what Richardson -- suffering from a brain injury and under the influence of medications -- said or didn't say in his recollections of the accident, Fuller said.
Richardson allegedly gave an implicating damning statement that was not recorded, unlike other statements during the investigation, and then was put in the record eight months after the crash.
Fuller's law firm hired a company that conducted its own crash reconstruction, and it found the Wyoming Highway Patrol made mistakes in its own reconstruction, he said.
Fuller also told the jury members they will see a lot of gruesome photos, but urged them to stay focused on the key question of the case, whether the crash was careless or intentional.