Opening Statements Conclude In Helm Trial

SPOKANE — Opening statements in the Clifford Helm vehicular homicide trial have concluded Monday morning, leaving the jury with two explanations for the cause of a deadly collision over two years ago.

Defense attorneys told the jury Helm suffered a coughing fit shortly before the wreck that killed five children along Highway 395 back in November of 2005. They said Helm was coughing so much that he blacked out and lost control of the vehicle.

“This is a man who is tortured by his thoughts about this accident. A man who understands and accepts the responsibility for his vehicle being on the opposite side of that roadway,” Defense Attorney Carl Oreskovich said.

However prosecutors say tire tracks at the scene show Helm must have been consciousness because he made several deliberate course corrections during the 17 seconds and 1,500 feet his vehicle was out of control.

“During that time there’s absolutely no evidence whatsoever that he lost any speed at all … He kept up his speed [and] didn’t touch his brakes once,” Deputy Prosecutor Clint Francis said.

Also during their opening statement prosecutors said that records show Helm was talking on his cell phone in the seconds before the collision. They dispute claims Helm was unconscious because their evidence shows that Helm made several deliberate course corrections with his truck after it left the roadway.

Detectives say Helm drove 1,500 feet in 17 seconds and never once tried to brake his vehicle. Helm’s defense attorneys countered there were no skid marks at the scene because cruise control was engaged on Helm’s truck.

The prosecution began presenting their case Monday afternoon. The first three people to testify are witnesses to the collision.