The young man accused of manslaughter after his pickup truck crossed into oncoming traffic near the Mule Pass tunnel in Bisbee last summer and hit head-on with a much smaller vehicle could go to trial as soon as November, a judge said Monday.
Adam Shane Brown is charged with causing the deadly collision Aug. 14, 2020 while making an illegal lane change on eastbound State Route 80 in an attempt to get around a slower vehicle. His move caused the Ford F250 he was driving to hit a westbound Toyota Prius, killing Benjamin Saffer, 37, and injuring Saffer’s girlfriend, Suzanne Walsh.
Brown, 24, had a trial setting hearing Monday at Cochise County Superior Court.
His court-appointed attorney, Rodrigo Andrade, asked for the two-week jury trial to be scheduled for spring 2022, but Walsh and Saffer’s family wanted it set for sooner rather than later, according to their attorney Chris Russell.
The problem, Andrade argued to Judge Laura Cardinal, is that he has yet to contract an accident reconstruction expert for the defense. Andrade told the judge he has made a few inquiries but has not yet had time to address the issue.
Andrade, who is a member of the Cochise County Legal Advocate unit, also told Cardinal he has a handful of serious cases going to trial over the next several months. That schedule will impact his time to prepare Brown’s defense, he said.
It was also revealed by Andrade that law enforcement officials reported finding nothing related to the crash during a review of a dash camera installed in the truck Brown was driving. That report also need to be confirmed by a specialist, Andrade advised the court.
And the fact he has yet to obtain services of necessary experts means it would “unethical” for him to approach the Cochise County Attorney’s Office about a possible plea deal, Andrade told the judge.
Cardinal noted the victims’ objections to a lengthy delay when she ordered Brown to stand trial starting Nov. 2, with the 12 jurors expected to serve for two weeks. The judge noted nothing in her rulings Monday prevented the defense from requesting a settlement conference with another judge to see if a negotiated resolution -aka a plea agreement- can be worked out before trial.
It was also possible, the judge told Andrade, for the trial date to be pushed back during a September pretrial conference, but for now it gives Andrade and his office “a goal.”
Court records show the impact of the truck hitting the Prius caused the car to flip or roll more than once. Walsh, a medical professional, extracted herself and her boyfriend from the wreckage but a few minutes later Saffer died at the scene.
It was suggested at one point in Monday’s hearing that Andrade could approach the insurance company which provided liability coverage for the truck to see if the company’s accident reconstruction information or the expert who processed the Saffer-Walsh claim was available for Brown’s defense.
Russell also brought it to the judge’s attention that the insurance company says it is waiting for information from Andrade that is needed to resolve outstanding claims the victims have. Andrade said he was not aware of that problem but would look into it.
Brown spent three months in the Cochise County jail before posting a $25,000 bond. He remains out of custody pending trial under GPS monitoring. He is under court order to have no contact with Walsh or Staffer’s family.