A Cape Breton man charged with impaired driving causing the death of a 10-year-old girl has been found not guilty.
Colin Tweedie was driving an SUV that killed Talia Forrest in July 2019. He was subsequently charged with dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death, impaired driving causing death and failing to stop at an accident involving death. He was found not guilty on all three counts Friday.
After the verdict was read, a brief scuffle broke out in the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia in Sydney, with one man rushing toward the witness box. The grandfather of Talia Forrest was taken out of the courtroom by sheriff deputies and led out of the building.
In her decision, Justice Mona Lynch said the Crown lawyers did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Tweedie drove the vehicle while impaired or recklessly. The court also heard testimony that it was dark at the time of the collision and Tweedie believed he hit a deer.
She cited issues with evidence from the young girl who witnessed the collision, saying “her inability to understand or piece together the events is very understandable but it significantly undermines her reliability.”
As well, Justice Lynch said the Crown did not prove Tweedie had consumed a beer within 30 minutes of the collision. Officers had tested during the trial that they noted signs of impairment, and picture evidence showed a number of empty beer cans and bottles in Tweedie’s Nissan Xterra.
“I’m heartbroken,” said Samantha Williams, sister of Talia Forrest. “We just spent 2½ years fighting for justice for my little sister and we’re not getting it. I couldn’t be more sad about the decision.”
Crown lawyer Nicole Campbell said she would be looking for grounds to appeal the decision.
Defense lawyer Tony Mozvick said he was pleased that the emotions of the case didn’t impact the judge’s decision. He and the judge were escorted from the courthouse by police.
Tweedie and his family were taken away by sheriff’s deputies as supporters of Forrest’s family gathered at every entrance of the building. Emotions ran high as some shouted and chased after the vehicle.
“We definitely will be continuing to fight for her justice because she deserves that,” said Taylor Williams, cousin of Talia Forrest. “She would want us to keep fighting for her justice.”
In February, Tweedie entered a guilty plea to an additional charge of obstruction of police. The obstruction charge was laid after Tweedie was accused of lying to police that he was not driving his vehicle the day Forrest was hit. He told police his girlfriend was driving.
Sentencing for that charge will be held on June 3, 2022.