OGDEN -- A jury was asked to award Jessica Nelson's 5-year-old daughter just under a million dollars if they find a high-speed Ogden police chase caused her mother's death.
Killed in a 3 a.m. Dec. 13, 2005, collision at 24th Street and Grant Avenue were Nelson, 21, and her passenger, Philemon "Bob" Ellis, 62. Nelson's family filed suit in 2006.
Eddy Bustos slammed into Nelson's vehicle at 78 mph. A police chase of Bustos that topped 80 mph on Grant had just started up again, as Nelson's lawyers argued, or just concluded, say lawyers for Ogden city and former patrolman Matt Jones.
The suit has had a long journey to trial, at one point marked by 32 pending motions.
Two other lawsuits against the city from the chase did not survive the pretrial motion phase.
Jury deliberations are scheduled to resume Thursday morning.
With five lawyers in the courtroom Monday, closing arguments expected to begin at 9 a.m. did not start until 3:30 p.m., with the lawyers arguing most of the day on the exact language of jury instructions before 2nd District Judge Scott Hadley.
The case finally went to the jury at 6:20 p.m. after nearly three hours of closing arguments.
At one point ripping the 11-page document into pieces and throwing them into the air, Nelson's lead counsel Rob Sykes focused on what he called violations of the police department's own pursuit policy.
"When you have no policy, no one's safe," he told the jury, almost shouting. "Then there are no rules out there. It's a jungle.
"The word gets out and this jury lets them get away with it. Don't do it."
Sykes asked the jury to award Nelson's daughter, Wonzie Barrientos, the $115,000 estimated cost of raising a child, plus $600,000 for pain and suffering over the likely 60-year period she would have had a mother.
"I think $600,000 would be fair for 60 years. If I'm low, go higher."
Attorneys for the other side talked about the message the jury might send.
"If you find Jones even 1 percent liable, you're sending the message he should have looked the other way," Stephen Noel, Jones' lawyer, told jurors. "And you're telling Bustos and others like him that all you have to do is punch it, run and the police will back off."
Bustos was identified during the chase, which Sykes said meant the chase should have ended and Bustos should have been picked up later per the police pursuit policy.
"So he lets Bustos go," Noel responded. "And (Bustos) continues speeding down the road, running red lights, driving on the wrong side of the road, no turn signals.
"And he kills someone else's daughter. Then he (Jones) gets the call: 'What were you thinking?' He's supposed to say, 'I figured I'd pick him up tomorrow.' He can't win."
Jones was chasing Bustos after Bustos drove erratically, as Noel described, upon leaving a known "gang/drugs/weapons" hangout police had staked out that night. Testing after the crash turned up meth in Bustos' system.
"A 48-year-old gangster full of meth who found a 16-year-old runaway, also on meth," Allan Larson, one of the city's lawyers, said in his closing arguments.
"He's got a syringe of meth in his hip pocket, and he's at a gang house at 3 in the morning ... there's ample reason to suspect Eddy Bustos was up to no good."
No one was able to locate Bustos' 16-year-old passenger since shortly after the accident. In May 2007, Bustos was sentenced to consecutive one-to-15-year prison terms on two counts of automobile homicide, plus another up to five years concurrent on an evading charge.
"If Bustos slows down half a second, he would have missed her," Sykes argued. "At 78 mph, he's going 110 feet a second. Half a second is 55 feet. He misses her."
Sykes argued that Jones had started the chase again, beginning to accelerate after slowing to a speed of 30 mph when the chase was called off by his sergeant.
The city's and Jones' attorneys argued Jones accelerated again only after Bustos slammed into Nelson, with Jones now rushing to the accident scene a block away.