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San Juan man charged in friend's death deemed competent to stand trial
A San Juan Island man accused of causing a fatal crash which led to the death of a friend was determined competent to stand trial in a decision handed down last week in San Juan County Superior Court.
On Aug. 5, Superior Court Judge John Linde ruled Robert Benedict is capable of assisting in his own defense. He rejected a motion filed by the 24-year-old man’s attorney that a pending trial be dismissed.
Trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 15 in Superior Court.
Benedict was charged with vehicular manslaughter, a Class B felony, following the fatal crash in early March 2007 near Cattle Point Estates. Jarvis Teasdale, a Friday Harbor High graduate, died at the scene. Benedict and Amber Beeston, owner of the car in which the three were traveling, were seriously injured.
The three were friends; Beeston, 20, and Teasdale worked together at Island Convalescent Center at the time of the crash.
Benedict, represented by Friday Harbor attorney Carla Higginson, pleaded innocent in May to the felony. According to Higginson, Benedict has no memory of the crash and was not driving Beeston’s 2003 VW Passat.
Though Beeston was the car’s owner, investigators believe that Benedict was the driver based on statements Beeston made at the scene and on bruising caused by their seatbelts. Investigators believe speed was a factor but have ruled out alcohol or drugs as a contributing factor in the crash.
“We don’t believe alcohol or a controlled substance played a role in the cause of the accident,” Sheriff Bill Cumming said in an earlier interview.
Linde determined that although Benedict may suffer from amnesia, he is able to assist in his defense.
In his decision, Linde wrote that evidence from the crash scene and evidence from the vehicle have been preserved, and that at present Benedict is able to assist in his defense even though he may not recall the crash or details which surround it.
In an earlier interview, Higginson said she is “firmly convinced” of Benedict’s innocence.
“This young man has gone through enough with his injuries and the loss of a good friend,” she said, adding, “there is no clear indication he was the driver.”