Saturday, February 9, 2002

Light in Arakawa’s
favor, expert says

Support for a defense theory
contradicts earlier trial testimony

By Debra Barayuga

Former police officer Clyde Arakawa had a green light at the Pali Highway and School Street intersection that suddenly turned yellow seconds before he collided with a car driven by Dana Ambrose, a defense accident reconstruction expert testified.

Robert Anderson's conclusions yesterday contradict earlier testimony by expert witnesses called by the state in Arakawa's manslaughter trial.

Prosecutors say Arakawa was intoxicated, speeding and ran a red light when he struck Ambrose's car on Oct. 7, 2000, killing her. The defense contends Ambrose, not Arakawa, was speeding, that he was not drunk and had the right of way.

Anderson said Ambrose had the red light and that just before she entered the intersection, her car tripped sensors in the road that switched the green light on Pali to yellow as Arakawa entered the intersection.

Anderson based his analysis of the condition of the filaments in the traffic light bulbs from Pali Highway and School Street. He said symptoms of "hot shock" -- a deformation of the filaments caused when there is an impact to a lit bulb -- was evident in the red light for School Street and a "cooling down" of the filaments for the yellow light on Pali Highway.

But while he also found deformation in the filaments for the red light on Pali and the green light for School Street, Anderson said they were consistent with a short circuit occurring just after the two cars collided and Ambrose's car knocking the light pole off its base, severing the wires.

The short caused any light to be illuminated and made examination of the light bulbs for hot shock meaningless, Anderson said.

Also yesterday, a defense expert on the relationship between speed and injuries in motor vehicle crashes who earlier said Ambrose contributed to her injuries by not wearing her seat belt said she gave little weight to a police report indicating otherwise.

The police report noted Ambrose wore a seat belt but that it was cut to pull her from her car.

Laura Liptai testified that although police reports also indicated Arakawa wore a seat belt, it was not the case, so she questioned the validity of the report. Also, had Ambrose's seat belt been cut so she could be removed, it would not have been long enough for it to be stretched over to the passenger side and used to secure the passenger door while the car was being towed, she said.

Autopsy reports also showed no signs of injury to Ambrose's lap and shoulder areas, as would be expected if an individual wore a lap and shoulder belt during a crash involving high speed or even at 25 mph, Liptai said.

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