ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) - The judge presiding over the case of wrong way driver, Kelli Smith, recused himself from the case this morning. Judge Wesley Dalton removed himself from the case after Smith’s attorney, Jennifer Bukowsky, filed a motion for a change of judge and venue.
On February 25, 2012 Smith was driving the wrong way on I-70 about halfway between Columbia and St. Louis when she hit another car head on. The crash killed the other driver. The Missouri Highway Patrol investigated the accident finding Smith was drunk at the time of the accident.
Smith was found guilty but an appeals court threw out the conviction after her lawyer claimed she was not drunk and the investigation was mishandled. Bukowsky argued Smith was actually drugged and raped before the accident and was denied presenting that defense in court. Judge Dalton refused to allow Bukowsky to use involuntary intoxication or rape as a defense in the original trial.
Bukowsky said, “I’m very hopeful given the amount of evidence we’ve been able to build with regard to her defense that Kelli Smith was drugged and raped before the accident that we’ll be able to present a full defense in court with the new judge presiding over the case.”
It is still not certain if Smith will face new charges and be forced to go through a retrial. But Bukowsky says a new judge is the best way to ensure a retrial is fair if it occurs.
Bukowsky said, “This finding today doesn’t mean that this judge was biased in any way but just to protect the judicial process and avoid any appearance of impropriety, it was the proper thing for him to do.”
The Missouri Supreme Court will assign a new judge to the case. That judge will decide whether to approve or deny the motion to change the venue.