Suppression motions granted for evidence in trial of trucker

Motions to suppress certain evidence in the upcoming, yet unscheduled, trial of the trucker charged with manslaughter stemming from a May 16, 2013, traffic incident that resulted in the death of one person and the injury of others were granted Wednesday morning at a hearing in the Ward County Courthouse in Minot.

Clark L. Christensen, 58, Shelley, Idaho, could face up to 10 years in the state penitentiary, a fine of $10,000 or both if convicted of the Class B felony charge.

A motion submitted Jan. 6 by defense attorney Thomas J. Gunderson asked for an order that “inflammatory pictures of the victim” be prohibited at trial as they “would serve only to prejudice the jury.” Gunderson also requested that his client’s “record of criminal convictions or probationer status” be prevented for use at the trial, saying they do not relate to the charge at hand.

He also requested that any pictures at all of the victim, Megan Shoal, 21, Plentywood, Mont., whether inflammatory or not, not be used at trial and that client be allowed to appear in “street clothing” during the trial instead of jail clothing.

Deputy state’s attorney Kelly A. Dillon, in her response, largely agreed to the provisions in Gunderson’s motion, with minor exceptions.

She agreed that his previous record, which consists of a few minor offenses, were not admissible under state law in the prosecution of this case, though “the State asserts that defendant’s prior history may be admissible for impeachment should defendant testify contrary to his record.”

Further, “the State has no intention of offering photographs of the victim’s body after the crash,” though it does intend to show a photograph of the victim before the incident as to replace “an intangible, formless decedent with a face and personality,” which comes from a state precedent set in 1995’s case State v. Ash.

Christensen will also be allowed to appear in street clothing.

The May 2013 crash led to a Ward County commissioner calling the intersection of U.S. Highway 2 and the U.S. Highway 83 Bypass near Minot a “death trap” and prompted a study to improve the safety of the major intersection in the future.