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Man goes on trial for deadly crash

Holland man charged with driving under influence of marijuana

Staff writer

An Allegan County deputy testified Monday that Derric J. DeHaan was driving between 72 to 82 mph in a residential zone when he lost control of his car resulting in the death of two of his teen-age friends last year.

DeHaan, 21, of Holland, is charged with four counts of driving under the influence of marijuana and vehicular manslaughter in the deaths of Joshua Ripper and Dean Lyons on March 1, 2002, in Laketown Township.

Family members and friends at the courthouse on the first day of the trial against DeHaan wore buttons displaying a picture of Ripper.

The trial resumes this morning before Allegan County Circuit Court Judge George Corsiglia. The prosecution says DeHaan's use of marijuana, high speed and snow-covered roads were all key elements in the double fatality.

DeHaan's lawyer, Jeffrey Crampton, however, says while the Holland man smoked marijuana on the night of the accident, he wasn't intoxicated at the time of the crash. Crampton also says the crash was simply an accident.

"In my opinion, the drug use and the speed directly contributed to the accident," Allegan County Deputy Chris Kuhn said, telling jurors DeHaan was driving at the high rate of speed in a 35 mph zone. DeHaan had just dropped off two friends and was on his way to drop off Ripper at his home at about 2:45 a.m. when he lost control of his car while driving north in the 4700 block of 64th Street near Blue Jay Lane, Champion said.After DeHaan lost control of the car, it went airborne, flipped and struck two trees, coming to a rest 332-feet later on the west side of the road. Both Ripper and Lyons were thrown from the back seat in the process.

Lyons, 17, was declared dead at the scene while Ripper, 16, died an hour later at the hospital. A front seat passenger, Leang Song Chav, 23, suffered minor injuries.

Assistant Prosecutor Robert Champion said evidence will show that DeHaan was under the influence of marijuana. A blood test confirmed he had used marijuana, Champion said. Champion said he will present witness testimony that DeHaan and five of his friends shared three marijuana cigarettes that night before going to a pool hall, and, after leaving the pool hall, the group allegedly smoked two to three more marijuana cigarettes, Champion said.

Crampton of Grand Rapids said that DeHaan's blood test results show there was no THC, marijuana's active ingredient, in his blood. What was found was a water soluble derivative. Crampton said there's no evidence to show that his client was under the influence of marijuana.

He said the prosecution's expert witness, Dr. Michelle Glin of the Michigan State Police, won't be able to say that DeHaan was under the influence of marijuana at the time of the accident.

Crampton said he will present testimony from the former head of toxicology at Blodgett Memorial Hospital, Dr. Dan McCoy, that his client was "not high."

"This was an accident, pure and simple, an accident," Crampton said. "He was not driving recklessly. He was not high."

Crampton said DeHaan had smoked marijuana earlier but noted, "He's not on trial for doing that."

Police also found no marijuana or paraphernalia inside the car or around the accident scene, Crampton said. Crampton said he will present testimony from a former Michigan State Police accident reconstructionist who will point out flaws in Kuhn's investigation.

Crampton said his expert, Thomas Bereza, has investigated over 100 fatal accidents for the state police and will testify that it "was impossible" for DeHaan to be driving that fast. DeHaan had told police he was probably driving between 50 to 60 mph, but not faster than 65 mph. Crampton said DeHaan was coming out off a 55 mph zone and claimed most drivers speed through that stretch.