The Crown has not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Rituraj Kaur Grewal did not have a epileptic seizure while driving when she crashed into a Surrey teen’s car, killing him, and so his client is entitled to an acquittal.
That’s what defence lawyer Don Muldoon argued in his final submissions Wednesday on behalf of the Surrey woman accused of criminal negligence causing death in the 2017 traffic crash that killed Cloverdale teen Travis Selje. In order to convict, he noted, the court must be satisfied that an element of moral blameworthiness has been established beyond a reasonable doubt by the Crown.
“The evidence is compelling that an epileptic seizure caused this tragic accident. That was the rational explanation, on the evidence,” Muldoon told Justice Jeanne Watchuk. “The evidence is compelling, overwhelming and far surpasses the threshold of raising a reasonable doubt.”
Grewal, 26, had been driving her father’s Cadillac at age 22 when it slammed into Selje’s Honda Prelude at high speed on May 3, 2017 at the intersection of 64th Avenue and 176th Street in Cloverdale, fatally injuring the 17-year-old boy. He died in hospital two days later.
An RCMP forensic expert testified during the trial, which continues in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster, that the Cadillac was doing 142 km/h in a 60 km/h zone just prior to hitting Selje’s car.
Grewal testified she has no recollection of the crash and believes she had an epileptic seizure that caused the collision.
Dr. Yahya Aghakhani, director of Vancouver General Hospital’s epilepsy program testified that Grewal’s behaviour as described by a couple of witnesses immediately after the crash that killed Selje was consistent with an epileptic seizure but he could not confirm she had one while she was driving.
Dr. Gurwant Singh, a Surrey neurologist who diagnosed Grewal with epilepsy in 2019 and continues to treat her testified that amnesia can be brought on by an epileptic seizure, a concussion or a combination of both. The court heard Grewal is given to convulsive seizures and complex partial seizures and underwent an MRI scan that revealed an arachnoid cyst compressing the right temporal lobe in her brain.
Muldoon noted there was “absolutely no effort, none,” on Grewal’s part to avoid the collision. “There is no braking, not even the most minimal of braking,” he said. “There’s no attempt to steer away from the stopped vehicles. There’s no reaction or attempt to avoid the obvious hazard.”
Subsequent to the crash two MRI scans confirmed Grewal has “abnormalities in the brain.”
“The evidence is crystal clear – this woman has abnormalities in the brain, and those abnormalities in and of themselves can cause seizures.”
Muldoon also noted that prior to the 2017 crash Grewal had not yet been diagnosed with epilepsy. “She had no idea that she was suffering from epilepsy.”
“Her evidence was that she had never experienced any kind of a tremor or a seizure while driving any time prior to May of 2017,” he told the court. “There’s no basis for concluding this woman could or should have known that there was any risk in her operating a motor vehicle on May 3, 2017.”
Crown Prosecutor Kelly Johnston has yet to make his final arguments. After he does, Watchuk has indicated she will reserve her decision to a later date.