Driver's still a risk: Crown

Jack Keating, Staff Reporter The Province

Friday, September 3, 1999

An American woman whose dangerous driving and excessive speed resulted in the deaths of two teenage girls at the Peace Arch border crossing poses a "significant threat" to society, a prosecutor told B.C. Supreme Court yesterday.

"Julia Campagna is a significant threat to the safety of the public," Crown counsel Catherine Fedder told Justice Thimersingh M. Singh during a disposition hearing.

Fedder argued against allowing the 28-year-old Kirkland, Wash., woman an absolute discharge -- which defence lawyer Deanne Gaffar had earlier argued in favour of.

Fedder suggested Campagna be supervised for 18 to 24 months to ensure she has no relapse.

Wednesday, Justice Singh ruled that Campagna committed the offence of dangerous driving causing death, but found her not criminally responsible due to a mental disorder caused by taking an over-the-counter diet drug called Xenedrine that contains the stimulant ephedrine.

Justice Singh reserved judgment until 10 a.m. today.

Campagna underwent a psychological assessment in the weeks after the fiery 1998 crash that killed Kimberly Brooks, 18, of Port Coquitlam and Monique Ishikawa, 19, of North Vancouver.

She was declared fit to stand trial on two counts of dangerous driving causing death.

Maximum penalty is 14 years in jail, but any criminal conviction was essentially ruled out when both sides agreed Campagna was not criminally responsible.

Citing the evidence and the reports of two psychiatrists, Gaffar argued that Campagna posed no threat to society, and called her a "high-functioning individual" with a full-time job in the Seattle area and a well-grounded social
support system.

Campagna began taking Xenedrine to help her lose weight in preparation for the Boston Marathon.

Psychiatric evidence suggested there was a "minuscule" to "low" risk of a relapse.

Meantime, the father of one of the girls killed in the crash, branded the verdict "the legalization of murder."

Cat Simril-Ishikawa called the "substance-induced mental disorder" defence an excuse to beat the legal system.

"Hey, I can pop one of those pills and go kill everybody I want. Maybe I'll have to go see a couple of psychiatrists, but that will be it. This is the fault of the American legal system in allowing this drug to be sold -- or the fault of the Canadian legal system for allowing people to get away with being intoxicated and slaughtering people with no penalty."