Police tape captures Janklow's reactions

Jury in manslaughter trial hears remarks after crash

December 03, 2003|By P.J. Huffstutter | P.J. Huffstutter,LOS ANGELES TIMES

FLANDREAU, S.D. - In an emotional first day of testimony in the second-degree manslaughter trial of U.S. Rep. William J. Janklow, jurors watched a police videotape that captured the words - and ultimate horror - of the state's only congressman in the hours after he killed a motorcyclist.

Recorded by the South Dakota Highway Patrol, the tape shows the South Dakota Republican and Officer Jeffrey M. Lanning as they traveled to a local hospital to test the politician's blood for alcohol and drugs.

Janklow, 64, is accused of running a stop sign on a rural road in August and striking Randy Scott, 55, a farmer from Minnesota. If convicted on the felony count and lesser charges, Janklow faces up to 10 years in prison, a $10,000 fine and potentially the end of his career.

The recording, which begins two hours after the accident, first shows the lawmaker insisting the accident occurred because he had swerved to avoid a "little white car." An investigation found no such car.

Prior to reaching the hospital, the tape shows, Lanning stopped the car at a local funeral home to talk to the town's coroner and find out more accident details. When Lanning returned to the car, the officer told Janklow Scott's name and birth date.

In a broken voice, Janklow asked for information on Scott's family. He then sat in silence for several minutes and, with a heavy sigh, mumbled, "Jesus."

On the way back to the accident site, Janklow continued to mull over the phantom white car. At one point, he said quietly, "Maybe I'm dreaming."

The tape wrapped up a day of testimony by accident witnesses, tales of fear and chaos that ranged from anger to tears.

Monica Collins, a church secretary from Minnesota, testified that Janklow had sped past her car on Highway 13 only minutes before the accident. The speed limit on the highway is 55 mph.

"It scared me," Collins said. "I looked at my speedometer, and it was 55 or 60. ... He passed me, and he was gone."

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