MISSOULA – A Stevensville woman convicted of vehicular homicide while under the influence in 2011 is asking to have her conviction thrown out and asking for a new trial based on new evidence uncovered by the Montana Innocence Project.
Katie Garding filed a petition to vacate her conviction and have a new trial back in September of 2015. Monday marked the first day of that multi-day hearing.
Garding was found guilty of striking and killing 25-year-old Bronson Parsons with her vehicle on New Year’s Day in 2008.
Garding’s lawyers, who include counsel from the Montana Innocence Project, are trying to have that conviction vacated so they may have a new trial to prove her innocence.
Their petition is based around perceived faults from the initial trial, one of them being inadequate counsel.
Jennifer Streano was the public defender assigned to the initial trial. She admitted that not having an accident reconstruction completed for the trial was a major error.
Streano says that accident reconstruction could have been persuasive enough evidence to produce a different verdict in the original trial.
"So persuasive that it just finally, I mean, I think it just eliminates Katie as a suspect," Streano said in Missoula District Court on Monday.
“I think in one of your affidavits you described that evidence as powerful. Would you agree with that?” asked Montana Innocence Project Legal Director Larry Mansch.
"Yes," Streano replied.
“And looking back is that the kind of evidence you should have presented on Katie’s behalf?”
“In your view then, without that type of evidence, did Katie Garding receive a fair trial?"
"She absolutely did not."
“Was she denied effective assistance of counsel?”
The hearing will resume Tuesday in Judge John Larson’s courtroom at 9 a.m.