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Janklow Cries While Testifying on Crash

December 6, 2003

FLANDREAU, S.D. (AP) _ U.S. Rep. Bill Janklow took the stand as the final defense witness at his manslaughter trial Saturday, crying as he talked about the motorcyclist who died 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. He admitted speeding, but responded ``I don’t know″ or ``I don’t recall″ to many of his lawyer’s questions about events before and after the accident.

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., when Janklow’s Cadillac entered the path of Scott’s motorcycle.

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

Saturday was the sixth day of the trial. Closing arguments are expected on Monday.

Janklow said he had tried several times to meet with Scott’s relatives but they 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.

When questioned by a prosecutor, he acknowledged that he does speed and that he has run stop signs, but he said he would not speed through a blind intersection on purpose.

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

Janklow testified that a tight schedule had 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.″

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. He said he has wished ``a thousand times″ that he had eaten before the wreck.

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.

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.

If convicted, 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.