Monday Jan 26 2009
Anna Berset's fate in hands of jury now
By: Nathan Donato-Weinstein | firstname.lastname@example.org
A Folsom woman’s contention that she didn’t know she had hit a 15-year-old Granite Bay girl with her car doesn’t hold up, a prosecutor told jurors in closing arguments Monday. Before the case of Anna E. Berset went to the jury, Deputy District Attorney Jeff Wilson told jurors the 52-year-old “continues to run from the truth” following the June 13, 2007, death of Courtney Parker. “There may have been a scenario where Courtney was saved, and that’s why the law requires you to stop,” Wilson said. Berset is charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter and felony hit-and-run causing death after allegedly colliding with Courtney as the teen walked along Auburn-Folsom Road at nighttime. She faces up to 5 years in state prison for the felony charge, and a year in county jail for the count of vehicular manslaughter. Courtney, a cheerleader at Granite Bay High, was near Douglas Boulevard and on her way to retrieve a cell phone at about 9:50 p.m. when she was hit, officials said. Berset allegedly returned to her home after hitting the girl, then called police the next day to report that she was involved in some type of collision, but claimed not to know exactly what occurred. Prosecutors said Berset’s actions after the incident – including waiting to notify authorities, having the car wiped down and providing differing explanations of what she collided with – proved she knew she did something wrong. Investigators later found a sample of Courtney’s DNA on the vehicle. He said Berset should have been especially aware of the consequences of pedestrian crashes, since her son was convicted of causing an accident that killed a 15-year-old Loomis boy along the same stretch of road nine years ago. “As she ran into Courtney, Courtney was right in her headlights,” Wilson said. “Right in front of her face.” But Craig Leri, Berset’s Marysville-based defense attorney, attempted to poke holes in the prosecution’s case. In a blistering critique, he accused law enforcement officers of not completing a full and accurate investigation, neglecting to ask routine questions of witnesses. And he claimed a lack of evidence implicating Besert forced the DA to rely on “pandering to pity or passion.” “There was no investigation in this case,” he said. “The prosecution has not met their burden of proof.” Leri claimed several possibilities should give jurors reasonable doubt as to his client’s guilt. He stressed a possibility that Courtney and a friend she was walking with were “clowning around,” resulting in the girl entering the roadway. The prosecution has contended Courtney was off the road at the time of the impact, and was struck when Berset apparently swerved. In the darkness, Berset was unable to tell what had unexpectedly hit her, Leri said, and did nothing wrong in going home. “Why say you didn’t know what you hit? It could be because you didn’t know what you hit,” Leri said. But Wilson said such possibilities were unsupported by evidence. “The truth does not count by ‘maybe,’” he said. “It’s not relevant to the truth.” The jury of six men and six women did not reach a verdict Monday, and will continue to deliberate today.