APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, In and For the County of Mineral, Cause No. DC-2010-11 Honorable Robert L. Deschamps, III, Presiding Judge
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Laurie McKinnon
Submitted on Briefs: March 13, 2013
Justice Laurie McKinnon delivered the Opinion of the Court.
¶1 Sergey Buslayev appeals from a jury verdict in the Fourth Judicial District Court, Mineral County, finding him guilty of negligent homicide and criminal endangerment. Buslayev maintains that the District Court improperly admitted into evidence five photos of the victim's body. We affirm.
PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND
¶2 On December 17, 2008, Jerry Parrick, a volunteer with the West End Volunteer Fire Department, responded to a call regarding an overturned vehicle at McGee Point on westbound I-90, at mile marker 17 between Haugen and DeBorgia in Mineral County, Montana. Parrick responded in his firefighter uniform and in his personal pickup. Parrick's pickup was equipped with emergency lighting. As rescue workers began their efforts to extricate a family from an overturned vehicle, Parrick moved his vehicle to a position that would establish a safety zone to alert oncoming traffic of the hazard and to provide an area for rescue personnel to work. At the time of the emergency, snow was falling, the Interstate was snow packed and slippery, and the temperature was five degrees.
¶3 Parrick was inside his pickup, facing west, and parked on the shoulder of I-90 to warn oncoming traffic of the accident. Buslayev, who was operating a commercial tractor trailer, approached Parrick's vehicle and began merging into the left lane. Buslayev downshifted and used the brake which caused the tractor trailer to jackknife and hit Parrick's pickup. The force of the collision pushed the cargo area of the pickup into the cab killing Parrick.
¶4 An Information was filed on June 9, 2010, charging Buslayev with negligent homicide and criminal endangerment. Prior to trial, the parties entered into the following stipulation:
The parties hereby stipulate that Jerry Parrick died as a result of injuries sustained when his vehicle was struck by a tractor-trailer driven by the Defendant on December 17, 2008. You should consider this fact to be proven; no other proof is required.
¶5 Buslayev filed a Motion in Limine requesting that five photos of the victim's body, State's Exhibits 1-5, 1-6, 1-7, 1-8, and 1-10, be excluded from evidence at trial. The photos depicted the victim's body in his firefighter gear and how the victim was positioned within the cab of his pickup following impact. The victim's face was covered with a cloth. Although Buslayev admits the photographs were not particularly gruesome or gory, he argues that the photos were highly prejudicial in that they depicted death and showed the victim in his firefighter gear. Buslayev maintains that the photos had no probative value because they could not establish the speed of Buslayev's truck and, in light of the parties' stipulation, were not probative of any issue the jury must decide.
¶6 The State argues that the photos were relevant to demonstrate that the victim's position within the cab was due to Buslayev's excessive speed. The State also maintains that the position of the victim's body tended to show severe impact and excessive speed which rendered Buslayev's statements to law ...