Aurora woman who killed St. Charles couple in 2009 crash still fighting prison sentence

  • Alia Bernard

    Alia Bernard

 
 
Updated 8/13/2015 1:16 PM

An Aurora woman serving a six-year prison term for causing a 2009 crash that killed a St. Charles couple and injured 12 motorcyclists is still fighting to challenge the state's methodology that showed she had marijuana in her system.

The attorney for Alia Bernard, 31, will argue Sept. 11 to have two employees of the state police crime lab testify about their procedures. Defense attorney Donald Ramsell argues the state used flawed methodology to determine Bernard had marijuana in her system when she rear-ended another car, causing a large pileup on Route 47 near Elburn that killed Wade and Denise Thomas in May 2009.

 

Bernard was charged under an Illinois law in which motorists are held criminally responsible if they are involved in a serious or fatal crash and have marijuana or its metabolites in their system.

Under the current law, prosecutors do not have to prove in court that the driver was impaired, only that there was any amount in the driver's body.

The General Assembly has passed a bill that would change to law to require prosecutors to prove impairment and establish a THC threshold for impaired driving. The bill was sent to Gov. Rauner June 19 and he has two months to sign it.

Even though police at the crash scene wrote in a report that Bernard did not show signs of impairment, she pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six years in prison in 2012. Now, she is trying to undo her guilty plea.

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Ramsell argues the state crime lab's methodology was flawed in testing Bernard's blood and has subpoenaed two crime lab workers to testify.

The Illinois attorney general's office argues that simply turning over operating manuals satisfies the subpoena.

"(Illinois State Police) objects to producing any further documents as requested by defendant as doing so would be burdensome and any request for additional documents constitutes an improper, overboard request," the attorney general's office argued in court papers this week. "The accreditation process generates voluminous amounts of documents which would be unduly burdensome to produce."

An appellate court also ruled that Bernard's attorney should have another chance to argue to undo her guilty plea.

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