KALISPELL — An Evergreen teen convicted of two counts of deliberate homicide in a head-on crash that killed a pregnant woman and her 13-year-old son two years ago is seeking a new trial.
Justine Winter's attorney, in a six-page request filed earlier this month, said that errors in the previous trial warrant a new hearing.
David Stufft, The Daily Inter Lake of Northwest Montana reports, alleged that a juror had improper contact with a member of Winter's family during the trial, that an important new witness has come forward and that the judge's demeanor during the trial favored the prosecution.
Stufft's filing also alleges prosecutors changed their theory of how the crash occurred from when the charges were filed in 2009 and when the case went to trial in 2011, violating Winter's constitutional rights to due process.
District Judge Katherine Curtis scheduled an April 6 hearing.
Winter was convicted of intentionally driving her car into the path of an oncoming vehicle, killing 35-year-old Erin Thompson, who was pregnant, and her son, Caden Odell. Prosecutors argued the crash was intentional because Winter, who was then 16, had threatened to commit suicide during a text-message exchange with her former boyfriend.
Stufft argued that Flathead County Attorney Ed Corrigan and Deputy County Attorney Lori Adams called as a witness a forensic linguist who testified that the text messages were not suicidal.
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"Ed Corrigan's judicial admission during his closing argument that the defendant, Justine Ellen Winter, drove her car into the other lane with no thought to the consequences is inconsistent with a deliberate homicide conviction requiring a defendant to have the intent to cause harm to a victim and not just merely an intent to crash her car."
Stufft also argued that Curtis was polite and nice to prosecuting attorneys, while telling defense counsel to "speak" as if talking to a dog and shaking her head "no" in a disapproving manner.
His request also continued complaints about the testimony of Richard Poeppel, a Whitefish man who testified he was among the first people at the scene of the crash. Winter's defense sought to play a recording of Poeppel's testimony to highlight a perceived contradiction of facts, but were barred from doing so.
Stufft wrote that a new witness has come forward who can contradict Poeppel's testimony that Thompson has slowed her vehicle down and Winter crossed into her lane.
The request also argues there were inadequate jury instructions and that the judge made other rulings during the trial that the defense considers unfair.
Corrigan was not available for comment Thursday, but has until Friday to file a response.
Winter is scheduled to be sentenced on April 12.