A man whose DNA was found on the steering wheel of a stolen car after it struck a Kamloops woman before the driver sped away was found not guilty on Friday after a judge found there was not enough evidence linking him to the crash.
Joshua Pooli, 30, was acquitted after a week-long B.C. Supreme Court trial in Kamloops on charges of failure to stop at an accident, dangerous driving causing bodily harm and possession of stolen property.
On Aug. 28, 2016, a female jogger suffered serious injuries after being struck while running along West Athabasca Street on the Tk’emlups te Secwépemc reserve. The driver of the vehicle that struck the jogger sped away, then returned moments later before again driving off.
Neither the jogger nor her running partner were able to see the driver.
The woman, Deborah Kennedy, was left with a fractured skull, broken vertebra, a broken left leg and ankle and a traumatic brain injury.
Five hours after the collision, police found an abandoned stolen car near the Halston Bridge, with damage consistent with having struck a person.
Police found a wallet on top of the vehicle and recovered DNA from the steering wheel and a baseball hat from inside the car. The DNA did not match the vehicle’s registered owner or the person whose wallet was recovered.
Court heard there was initially no match for the DNA in Canada’s criminal DNA database, either, but that changed late in 2018, after Pooli was required to submit a sample of his DNA for an unrelated conviction.
Pooli was arrested and charged in March 2019.
At trial, defence lawyer Joe Killoran argued the Crown’s evidence did not establish Pooli was driving the vehicle when it struck Kennedy.
“The case against Mr. Pooli is purely circumstantial,” B.C. Supreme Court Justice Len Marchand said Friday in acquitting Pooli. Marchand outlined the evidence — the DNA — then went over possible explanations that would not put Pooli behind the wheel at the time of the crash.
“Despite all the evidence implicating Mr. Pooli, the evidence and lack of evidence leave open the possibility for other explanations,” Marchand said. “In fact, the evidence falls short of establishing Mr. Pooli was ever knowingly inside the car.”
Marchand said it is entirely possible Pooli happened upon the abandoned vehicle after the crash.
“The fact that only Mr. Pooli’s DNA was found on the steering wheel is telling,” Marchand said. “It seems someone wiped down the steering wheel after it was stolen and before it was abandoned; otherwise, the owner’s DNA would be found on the steering wheel also.”
Marchand said the evidence fell well short of establishing who was driving when the jogger was struck.
“There was plenty of time for Mr. Pooli to deposit his DNA on the steering wheel after Ms. Kennedy was struck,” he said.
“The bottom line is that I’m not sure who was driving when it struck Ms. Kennedy. … It’s unfortunate that I’m not able to offer Ms. Kennedy and her friends and family the closure that they must be seeking, but the evidence presented by the Crown falls short.”