Man charged in fatal hit-and-run of mother acquitted
Published Friday, November 24, 2017 5:07PM EST Last Updated Friday, November 24, 2017 6:39PM EST
A Toronto judge has acquitted a man accused in a hit-and-run that killed a mother of three on Bloor West back in May, 2015.
Nelisa DaMota, 39, was in a car with her husband when she pulled over just west of Dovercourt road and crossed the busy street on foot to reach the bank on the opposite side of the road.
It was dark and rainy at the time, and she was struck by two vehicles, a white Mercedes and then a taxi. The driver of the Mercedes left the scene of the collision, which took place around 9 p.m.
Deriba Wakene, 57, was arrested about a year later in April 2016. He insisted in court that he left the scene because he had no idea that he had been involved in a collision.
He said he did not hear, see or feel any impact to his vehicle. He told the court that if he knew, he would have stayed at the scene.
Court heard evidence that when Wakene arrived home that evening, he backed into his driveway, leaving the damage in full view of anyone passing by.
In assessing Wakene’s credibility, the court found there was no evidence that he was speeding, consumed alcohol, or that he was distracted while driving. There was also no indication that bad driving caused the accident.
Justice Ramez Khawly, told the court that he believed Wakene’s reasoning for leaving the scene, which was he did not know that he hit anyone.
"I cannot say that I disbelieve him. It is not even a case of whether his explanations can reasonably be true. Rather, I believe him,” said Khawly.
“I was not there. He was. It may seem outlandish that he did not see, hear, or feel the impact. But the law is clear. As I believe him, despite other evidence, I must acquit.”
DaMota’s husband Helio Batista was in court when the judge rendered his verdict and told reporters afterwards he was surprised and upset by the outcome.
“I'm just surprised that the outcome was this. It's not anger, I’m just upset, we went through a two-week trail, we saw all the evidence, it's all there, we saw everything that happened,” he said. “I think our law system is a joke.
“There's no way you hit something, somebody that's five-feet tall, 192-pounds, it causes all that damage and you tell the court that you didn't hear it you didn't feel it – nothing?” he continued.