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Janklow Takes Stand in Manslaughter Trial

December 6, 2003

FLANDREAU, S.D. (AP) _ U.S. Rep. Bill Janklow testified in his own defense at his manslaughter trial Saturday, crying as he talked about the man who was killed in the traffic accident he is accused of causing.

The former governor and state attorney general said he remembers nothing about the crash at a rural crossroads on Aug. 16 or even much about the drive before, although he admitted speeding.

Janklow, 64, is charged with second-degree manslaughter, running a stop sign, reckless driving and speeding in the crash that killed Randy Scott, 55, of Hardwick, Minn., as Janklow’s Cadillac entered the path of Scott’s motorcycle.

Scott, 55, was killed instantly. Janklow suffered a broken hand and a head injury.

Janklow said he had tried several times to meet with Scott’s family but weren’t ready.

``I have to meet with them,″ he said, crying.

Prosecutors argue that Janklow made a conscious decision to speed and ignore the stop sign.

The defense has tried to establish that Janklow, a diabetic, was suffered the effects of low blood sugar before the crash.

The powerful South Dakota Republican testified that a tight schedule and a heckler at an appearance earlier in the day in Aberdeen kept him from eating, even though he knew the risk of taking his insulin and not eating.

``I just plain forgot,″ he said. ``I’ve asked myself that 10 million times since this day.″

Janklow responded, ``I don’t know″ or ``I don’t recall″ to many of the questions from his lawyer about events before and after the crash.

He said he doesn’t remember details of the crash but knows he wouldn’t run a stop sign. He denied running a stop sign nearly a year ago at the same intersection and nearly hitting the truck of a woman who testified earlier in the trial. The woman said she didn’t pursue charges against Janklow because he was governor at the time.

He also said he wakes up at night thinking about the August accident.

``I wake up and just sweat. You can’t imagine what this is like,″ Janklow said.

Closing arguments are expected Monday.

On Friday, a physician testified that he was initially skeptical about a medical defense for Janklow, but changed his mind after examining the veteran politician, reviewing his medical records and discussing his activities in the hours before the crash.

It’s possible Janklow was suffering from low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, Dr. Fred Lovrien said.

Janklow may not have felt the early symptoms because it was hot when he spoke at an event that morning and because of his angry exchange with a heckler, said Lovrien, who examined Janklow two months after the crash.

Janklow said he was taking the medication Atenolol, which could hide symptoms of a diabetic reaction, Lovrien said. Atenolol is in a class of drugs called beta-blockers, which affect the heart and circulatory system.

On cross-examination, deputy prosecutor Roger Ellyson noted that Atenolol was not on the list of medications Janklow said he was taking the day after the accident.

Two neurosurgeons who testified Friday for the defense said it would be wise not to believe what Janklow said after the accident, when he said he swerved because of another car.

Dr. Michael Puumala said Janklow ``hit his head hard″ when the motorcycle struck his car and would have trouble thinking.

Janklow’s brother, Art Janklow, testified the congressman called him just minutes before the accident, and spoke unusually slowly and didn’t appear to have a reason for calling. He later had no recollection of calling, Art Janklow said.

The former four-term governor and only congressman from South Dakota could face up to 10 years in prison and a House ethics committee investigation if convicted.