Drug charge in state trooper death could lead to benchmark case

WORCESTER, Mass. — A man accused of driving under the influence of marijuana and causing a crash on the Massachusetts Turnpike that left a state trooper dead is seeking the dismissal of several charges.

Thirty-year-old David Njuguna, of Webster is charged with manslaughter and related offenses in the death of 44-year-old Trooper Thomas Clardy.

A motion filed by Njuguna's lawyer that argues several of the charges are "duplicative" and there was insufficient evidence to support the charge alleging Njuguna had used marijuana.

Authorities say Clardy had stopped a car for a traffic violation in March 16 when his cruiser was hit by Njuguna's vehicle. Witnesses say Njuguna's car had swerved across all three travel lanes without slowing. Clardy was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

A local legal expert says it could be a benchmark case regarding marijuana, especially since the state just legalized recreational marijuana.

"Whether or not there is sufficient evidence here to establish impairment or intoxication on the basis of marijuana ingestion," said Brad Bailey.

Prosecutors said Njuguna was smoking medical marijuana prior to the crash and they he smelled strongly of the drug. According to court documents, Njuguna's lawyers told the judge there are no medical records, toxicology report or other evidence indicating when Njuguna had consumed the marijuana.

"Marijuana stays in the system for up to 40 days, so you have this whole issue of when did the consumption or intake occur?" said Bailey.

Bailey said if the judge or jury agrees the evidence doesn't show impairment and the charges are dropped, he believes state lawmakers will step in.

"I'm sure that state legislature is going to try to do something to give prosecution tools to be able to bring these charges and sustain these charges," he said.

A hearing regarding the motion is set for Monday.

Contributing reporting from the Associated Press