Joe Baird DUI trial begins with first witness

Last updated at 10:30 a.m.

VERO BEACH – The DUI trial of Joe Baird got off to a slow start this morning with a short recess for technical glitches involving the setup of multimedia presentations and prosecutor David Dodd’s attempt to interview Baird’s girlfriend, a person the defense plans to call as a witness.

Dodd said Karen Diegl, who is reported to have picked up Baird’s vehicle after the arrest, had not returned his telephone calls and would not speak to him in the hallway, so he had not had a chance to speak with her regarding her testimony. He was able to briefly speak with her during the recess. Witnesses present when court convened at 8:30 a.m. were placed under a sequestration order, meaning that, from that point on, they would need to wait outside the courtroom until called to testify and that they could not speak with each other about the case. Three Vero Beach Police Department officers were present, Lt. Matt Harrelson who pulled Baird over, Officer Jeff Bryson who administered the roadside sobriety tests and breath test operator Cpl. Phil Huddy, who signed the Affidavit of Refusal to Submit to Beath, Urine or Blood Test.

The jury was brought into Courtroom 2 at 9 a.m. and opening statements began shortly after the jury received instructions from Judge David Morgan.

Dodd called Harrelson as his first witness to testify to the details of the traffic stop and the indicators which led him call in another officer to conduct a DUI investigation. Harrelson, who works as a supervisor on the night shift, said he has been involved with 200 DUI investigations in his 14-year tenure with the department. Guttridge cross-examined Harrelson and attempted to draw out any inconsistencies in his testimony and to explore what signs of impairment Harrelson saw on the scene.

“There were some strong indicators,” Harrelson said, and explained that was the reason he called the sergeant on duty to send an officer with a camera-equipped vehicle to administer various roadside sobriety tests.

Using two aerial photographs entered into evidence, Guttridge questioned Harrelson about the details of Baird’s driving and the pacing of his speed at 43 mph in a 30 mph zone for three to four blocks on Miracle Mile, which, combined with the illuminated brake lights while Baird was accelerating his Jeep Cherokee, resulted in the traffic stop.

The court took a short break at 10:30, after which the state will continue to call its witnesses. The widely viewed video of the roadside sobriety tests is expected to be shown to the jury later today.

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