It’s not often a lawyer gets a client who’s found not guilty before a trial.
But the lawyer for an Alberta woman accused in a deadly crash west of Calgary said his client has been exonerated before the case made it to court.
“I had a concern right from the intake interview I did about what the circumstances were in this case,” said lawyer Alain Hepner. “And I wanted the DNA because it was so important.
“And then the DNA started to trickle in and really exonerated my client.”
The collision happened the evening of Aug. 19, 2022 along Highway 1 near Morley Road in Cochrane.
Wylie, a Canadian Forces veteran, and her partner were out for a summer motorcycle ride when a vehicle slammed into Wylie’s motorcycle, killing her.
Within hours, Kendra Bigstony was charged with six offenses including impaired operation causing death and impaired operation causing bodily harm, as well as driving while suspended or disqualified.
Hepner said Bigstony insisted in police interviews and to her lawyer that while she was in the vehicle — and admitted to being impaired — she was not the driver.
Now, the Crown prosecutor’s office has withdrawn all charges against Bigstony.
Forensic evidence came back in early April, putting someone else in the driver’s seat.
“It just underscores that fact that not everyone who is charged is guilty.”
Bigstony’s lawyer said his client is relieved, but Hepner also said the rush to lay charges so soon after the crash can have lasting consequences.
“In the court of public opinion, when someone is charged and their name appears in media — well of course they are guilty. And it’s a small community out there (in Morley), so the whisper campaign starts and now here we are at April 25th and she is exonerated entirely,” Hepner said.
Hepner said the consequences extend beyond what happened to Bigstony, who spent nearly eight months wrongfully accused.
He said the family and friends of of Samantha Wylie will have to relive the nightmare and begin the court and justice process all over again.
“It’s difficult for them to have focused on someone they thought and were told was responsible for the death of their family member. And then to be told by the RCMP and the Crown prosecutors — that was not right call to make,” said Hepner.
Dierdre Snow, 29, of Stoney Nakoda First Nation, faces five charges related to impaired driving causing death and bodily harm, and public mischief.
Snow is due to appear in court in Cochrane on May 2.
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