Public Safety

Jury selection for trial of Keith Furne, charged with vehicular homicide, underway

Jury selection started today in the trial for a Cedar Rapids man accused of texting when he crashed his pickup truck into a stopped vehicle, killing two teens and injuring three others in 2016.

Keith Furne, 35, is charged with reckless driving resulting in serious injury and two counts of homicide by vehicle. The trial was moved from Linn to Story County District Court because of extensive pretrial publicity.

Testimony may start Wednesday and the trial is expected to go into next week.  

Last week, 6th Judicial District Judge Fae Hoover-Grinde denied Furne’s motion to toss out the charges, arguing the prosecutor couldn’t prove he was driving in a “reckless manner” based on texting and driving because the law which makes texting and driving illegal and considers it as driving in a reckless manner wasn’t adopted until July 1, 2017 — after this crash.

Hoover-Grinde, in the ruling, said whether a person operates a vehicle in a “recklessly, with willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property” — according to the vehicular homicide law — is a question for the jurors to decide.

“It is certainly possible to envision a scenario in which sending or receiving text messages while driving may not constitute reckless driving, however, this determination is driven by the case facts,” Hoover-Grinde said in the ruling.

The fact finder — jurors — must consider all the factors and evidence at the time of the incident to determine recklessness.     

The teens killed in the crash, Selena Apodaca, 16, Isabella Severson, 13, were passengers with their mother, Jennifer Perez of Belle Plaine, on Nov. 3, 2016. Perez, driving a Chevrolet Aveo, was stopped on County Home Road, waiting to turn left onto North Troy Road when Furne’s Chevrolet Silverado pickup hit the back of the Aveo. Perez and her other daughters, Elysia Severson, 14, and a 4-year-old, were also seriously injured.

Furne wasn’t injured and admitted to investigators he was texting before he hit Perez’s car, according to the complaint. Data from his cellphone also showed he had been sending and receiving text messages before the crash and he was drafting another text when the crash occurred, the complaint states.

Authorities said the Crash Data Retrieval box showed Furne was going 60 mph for 2.5 seconds before the impact and that he never braked before the crash.

If convicted, Furne faces up to 25 years in prison.

l Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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