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Nelson trial now in jury's hands

All testimony by friends and relatives of Jeremy Scott Nelson suggested he did not appear to be under the influence of alcohol the night he collided with ATV driver Christopher Wade Carlson.

"I've been with him when we both were consuming alcohol," Nathan Lindblad said. "He had no characteristics of that that night."

Defense testimony began Monday in Nelson's jury trial. He's charged with three felony counts of criminal vehicular homicide in the accident that killed ATV driver Carlson on Aug. 17, 2008.

Many Lake Park community members attended Cormorant Days at the Cormorant Pub the night of Aug. 16, 2008, where Nelson and Carlson were seen.

Witnesses said they saw Nelson arrive at the pub around 9 p.m. One witness, Barry Nelson -- Jeremy Nelson's uncle -- said he didn't see him with any alcohol in his possession at the pub.

But he added that he saw Jeremy Nelson outside of the Road House Bar around 2 a.m. holding a clear bottle of beer that was half full before setting it on the bumper of his truck.

When Jeremy Nelson's sister, Lisa Nelson, saw him at the Cormorant Pub the same night, she said he didn't seem impaired in any way.

"He didn't appear anything other than normal," she said.

She received a call from him around 3:30 a.m. the night of the accident. There was a bad cell phone connection and the conversation was short, she said. She could only hear single words Jeremy Nelson was saying.

"Bijou," "David Conrad" and "cornfield" were some of the words she could make out, she said.

"He just sounded like he didn't know what was going on," Lisa Nelson said. "He just kept saying 'ah, ah, ah, I don't know' many times."

So she got up and drove toward Bijou Lake where an old friend, David Conrad, used to live about 15 years ago.

"I was driving around trying to find Jeremy," she said.

But she received a phone call from her father who told her Jeremy Nelson had been found at his aunt's house.

According to the criminal complaint, Jeremy Nelson wasn't immediately found at the accident scene until deputies were notified by his father that he was being treated at St. Mary's hospital.

Defense attorney Kenneth Kohler also called to the stand Robert Howard, president and chief operating officer of Medscan Laboratory and Advanced Drug Testing.

Nelson's blood alcohol tested at 0.05 percent at 8:55 a.m. -- about six hours after the accident occurred.

Howard contradicted what prosecution witness Edward Stern said last week about a reverse extrapolation of a 0.05 percent blood alcohol level six hours earlier.

Stern said it would range from 0.111 percent to 0.193 percent for an average person.

Because the amount of alcohol Nelson had consumed, his metabolism rate, and burn-off rate are unknown, Howard said, so doing a reverse extrapolation calculation would be inaccurate.

"Without knowing that, you can't draw a conclusion as to what his blood alcohol level was at the time of the accident," he said. "It is impossible."

Speed calculation

One defense witness suggested that it was possible Nelson was trying to avoid the ATV he collided with.

Accident reconstruction specialist Daniel Lofgren told the jury there are three ways to avoid an accident: steering to the right, braking or steering to the left, which is not recommended.

The ATV reportedly came from the pavement before impact. It's possible that Nelson was using an evasive maneuver to the right to avoid the ATV, Lofgren said.

He also calculated the rate of speed at which Nelson was driving. According to the Sensing and Diagnostic Module (SDM) in Nelson's Chevy Silverado pickup truck, he was driving more than 90 mph at the time of the crash.

But Lofgren said SDM calculates the speed of the wheels, not the actual vehicle. In other words, wheels could be spinning on dirt or grass while the vehicle is stationary at 0 mph.

Additionally, with the way the SDM works, it didn't report the speed of the actual impact. Lofgren said the system records the speed every one second.

"It (SDM) is not consistent with the rest of the crash evidence," he said.

He calculated from the vault speed of 45 mph -- where the truck hit a field approach in the north ditch -- back to the point of impact. The result was 65 mph.

One more factor in the case indicated that as Nelson drove on an 818-foot radius curve on County Road 1 before approaching the ATV, the "critical speed" -- the maximum possible speed for the truck to be driving on a curve of that radius without sliding off the road --could not have been more than 80 mph, Lofgren said.

The jury was scheduled to began deliberations after closing arguments Wednesday morning.