Speer defense challenges witnesses

PORT CLINTON Defense attorney Russell Buzzelli spent most of Friday challenging witness testimony that indicated Scott Speer
JACOB LAMMERS
May 24, 2010

PORT CLINTON

Defense attorney Russell Buzzelli spent most of Friday challenging witness testimony that indicated Scott Speer was responsible for the 2002 drowning of his friend.

Speer, 43, and James Barnett, 40, were riding on a boat near the Lake Erie islands in August 2002 when police say Speer pushed Barnett overboard. Barnett's body washed up on Mouse Island days later.

Speer, a resident of Fairlawn, faces felony charges of aggravated murder, murder, aggravated vehicular homicide and involuntary manslaughter. Friday was the first day the defense presented testimony.

Frederick Groub, a certified marine surveyor, testified before a jury in an Ottawa County Common Pleas Courtroom that Speer had not been driving dangerously prior to Barnett's entry to the water. A prosecution witness testified Monday that Speer was driving about 39 mph, which he said was "reckless" and "unsafe" due to severe weather conditions.

"I could not arrive and support any recklessness," Groub said, after reviewing the watercraft accident report.

Groub pointed to three instances in the report in which Speer said he "slackened his speed."

Buzzelli also argued that moisture collected in the hull of Speer's 1979 Aqua Sport that added weight to the boat. Groub said weight can play a part in the speed of a boat.

"The more heavily-loaded boat will require more power and push, which results in a decrease in its acceleration and speed," Groub said.

Groub also said that the boat's speed was difficult to determine based on evidence in the report.

"I found that it was and is impossible to retroactively reconstruct the speed of the boat found in the report because of the infinitely changing variables," Groub said.

Groub said some of those variables include the departure time, which had apparent inconsistencies in at least two reports.

The defense is expected to present two witnesses when the trial continues at 8:30 a.m. Monday.