Jury finds Jakscht guilty of manslaughterPosted: Updated:
Jurors have found aggravating factors in the case of a dump truck driver convicted in the 2010 deaths of four motorcyclists in north Phoenix.
On Wednesday, a jury found Michael Jakscht guilty on four counts of manslaughter, five counts of aggravated assault and four counts of endangerment in a Maricopa County courtroom.
Authorities said Jakscht was high on methamphetamine when the dump truck he was driving plowed over a group of motorcyclists and into three cars in March 2010. Four people died and five others were seriously injured.
After the proceedings, family members of victims gave their reaction to the guilty verdict.
"On behalf of our family, I know we are thrilled. We can definitely say that Phoenix is a safer place with him being off the streets," Susan Nachand-Prestidge said.
Her father, Clyde Nachand, was one of the bikers who was killed.
"We're glad it's done," said Paul Totonchi, whose wife, Dayle Veronica Downs-Totonchi, was also among the bikers killed.
They both hope Jackscht gets life behind bars.
The verdict was announced about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. The case was turned over to the jury late Monday afternoon. Closing arguments took up most of the day in court.
This is the second trial for Jakscht.
Jakscht was tried for murder in 2011 and took the stand in his own defense during that trial. His lawyers argued there were problems with the brakes on his truck. The jury in that trial was deadlocked, and the judge declared a mistrial.
Prosecutors decided to retry Jakscht. This time he did not take the stand.
During closing arguments, the prosecutor was emphatic that what happened on the Carefree Highway more than two years ago was not a tragic, horrible accident.
"What we have here, today, in this case, is a crime," exclaimed Aaron Harder, deputy Maricopa County attorney. "Because the defendant, Michael Jakscht, acted recklessly."
Harder went on to argue the prosecution's position that he and his team presented evidence during trial that proves Jakscht was high on meth, and the impairment from the illegal drug is what caused the crash.
"The defendant never tried to stop. He failed to react," Harder said.
Defense attorney Robin Varcoe started her closing argument by saying that Jakscht is not only not guilty, but he's an innocent man.
"This was an accident. As horrible and as tragic as it was, an accident," Varcoe said.
Varcoe acknowledged that the fact that it was an accident does not diminish the loss to the victims.
Varcoe said the very first statement Jakscht made to investigators shows that an equipment failure is responsible for the crash.
"He told Detective Campbell, 'When I stepped on the brakes, the truck moved to the left. I tried to stop and I couldn't stop,'" the defense attorney said.
Jakscht's sentencing has been rescheduled for Nov. 16.
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