HAVERHILL - Aaron Deveau sent and received 193 text messages on Feb. 20, 2011, including some allegedly in the moments that the Haverhill teenager crossed into oncoming traffic and plowed head-on into another car, killing the driver and seriously injuring a passenger, prosecutors say.
Four of the texts, they say, were in a two-minute period just before impact.
On the opening day of the state’s first such texting-while-driving trial, prosecutors in Haverhill District Court laid out a case that depicts texting behind the wheel as deadly negligence with devastating consequences.
As tears flowed from the eyes of one of the sons of the dead driver, Donald Bowley, the prosecutor, Ashlee Logan, displayed a picture of the 55-year-old Danville, N.H., man who died of severe brain trauma 18 days after the crash.
“This is Donald Bowley,’’ Logan told the jury. “You will never hear from him about what happened, what he experienced, what he felt, because the defendant took that opportunity away from him on Feb. 20, 2011.’’
Logan also suggested that Deveau had deleted some text messages after the collision, telling officers his last message was at 2:33 p.m., and that he did not text again until 3:10 p.m.
“There are two missing that he didn’t show officers,’’ Logan told jurors.
Deveau, who was 17 at the time of the crash and is now 18, is charged with violating the new state law that makes it a crime for a driver to text while behind the wheel when a person is injured during a crash. He is also charged with negligent motor vehicle homicide, and prosecutors are trying to convince jurors that Deveau’s alleged texting legally qualifies as a negligent act warranting a criminal conviction.
The defense attorney, Joseph Lussier, told jurors to pay close attention to the timeline as it develops during the trial, suggesting the case is not so clear-cut as the prosecution argues.
“Timing is everything in this case,’’ Lussier said.
Still, prosecution witnesses on Tuesday described a grim scene in which an innocent couple - who that day had gone to church, eaten brunch at a restaurant, and were on their way for a walk in Haverhill - were violently crushed.
Haverhill Police Detective Thomas Howell testified that when he arrived at the scene, the couple looked as if they were hugging each other. He said the impact of the crash crumpled Bowley’s car and that the two people looked as if “they were folded into the floorboards.’’
Howell said Bowley was “just gurgling’’ because of his injuries.
Robin Murphy, another prosecution witness, said she was the first to arrive after the accident, and saw a cellphone on Deveau’s passenger seat. She said she asked him what happened and that he said he was tired and “didn’t see them and just got out of work.’’
Luz Roman, Bowley’s girlfriend of four years who was in the passenger seat, said on the stand that it is a miracle she is alive today. “I’ve lost all my strength, I have to start brand-new,’’ she said. “It’s a miracle I’m even here.’’
Roman testified that all of her ribs were broken, her lungs collapsed, and her pelvis and leg were fractured.
Thirteen people are scheduled to testify, and the defendant may take the stand in his own defense. Deveau stood in the courtroom Tuesday and raised his right hand to be sworn in as a witness, along with a handful of law enforcement officials.
Logan had filed a motion to have jurors go to view the scene of the collision, and before the trial started Tuesday, Judge Stephen Albany allowed the motion, despite objections by Lussier that the scene “is vastly different’’ than it was on Feb. 20, 2011. Lussier said there had been an accumulation of snow on the sides of the road.
Logan, during her argument for the motion, suggested the scene was important for jurors to see because it would reveal there were areas for the defendant “to pull over.’’
Donna Burleigh, Donald Bowley’s younger sister, described her brother as a loving father of three and grandfather of three. “He didn’t like phones,’’ she said. “He didn’t own a cellphone.’’