Impaired driving trial begins for Łutselk'e Chief Darryl Marlowe

·2 min read
The Łutselk'e community hall where Darryl Marlowe's trial is underway for driving while impaired.  (Natalie Pressman/CBC - image credit)
The Łutselk'e community hall where Darryl Marlowe's trial is underway for driving while impaired. (Natalie Pressman/CBC - image credit)

The chief of Łutselk'e crashed his snowmobile in the early hours of Jan. 3, 2021.

Darryl Marlowe was charged with driving while impaired but pleaded not guilty.

His trial began Wednesday in Łutselk'e, N.W.T.

Cpl. Harland Venema is one of the RCMP officers who responded to the call, and one of three witnesses to testify on the trial's first day. He testified that he has reason to believe Marlowe had been drinking.

Venema described receiving a call from emergency dispatch around 1:15 a.m., reporting a crash near the community's fire hall.

When Venema arrived at the scene, he said there was a crowd around Marlowe who was lying on his back by the road.

Natalie Pressman/CBC
Natalie Pressman/CBC

Venema said when he noticed Marlowe was in a state he described as "barely conscious," his priority shifted from investigating to ensuring Marlowe's safety.

He told the court he remembers being worried Marlowe might become hypothermic since "he was not adequately dressed for the -40 C."

He testified that he then called the health centre and, since there is no ambulance in Łutselk'e, drove Marlowe there himself.

He said Marlowe was medevaced to Stanton Hospital in Yellowknife at about 5 a.m. with a head injury.

Large crowd, few witnesses

Despite the crowd at the scene of the crash, the RCMP's investigation identified only four witnesses.

When defence lawyer Paul Falvo asked why there weren't more, Venema explained that when he and his colleague Const. Andrew Johnstone arrived at the fire hall, they were focused on Marlowe's safety and not on taking witness statements.

Natalie Pressman/CBC
Natalie Pressman/CBC

On Jan. 4, Venema asked his superiors for more resources to help with the investigation but none were granted. As a result, he said "some of those things could not be accomplished."

Johnstone's testimony recounted similar details.

Venema told the court that one statement he collected "gave [him] reason to believe impairment" while Marlowe was driving. A lab report from Marlowe's hospital visit that night indicated a blood alcohol level of 0.475. The legal limit for driving is 0.08.

911 call

Bernice Marlowe, Darryl's aunt, gave the final testimony on Wednesday.

The court heard audio of a woman identifying herself as Bernice Marlowe on a 911 call.

The woman in the recording tells the dispatcher "[her] nephew Darryl was in a crash ... by the fire station in Łutselk'e."

On the stand, however, Bernice said an injury last October has had a lasting impact on her memory and she does not recall making the emergency call.

After hearing the recording she told the court the voice could be hers, but also sounded like her sister.

Marlowe was charged with assault on the same night. Those charges have been stayed.

Marlowe has continued to serve as the community's chief in spite of the charges.

The trial resumes Thursday.

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