A jury in Flandreau, S.D., found U.S. Rep. Bill Janklow guilty of felony manslaughter and three misdemeanors yesterday in an August highway collision that killed a farmer. Janklow, 64, said he would resign his seat Jan. 20, the day of his sentence. He could face a prison term. The Republican Janklow was South Dakota’s attorney general for four years, governor for 16 years and was finishing his first year in Congress. An election to fill his seat will be held June 1.
The Sioux Falls Argus Leader says that testimony during the trial dwelled on issues of Janklow’s health and the physics of a highway collision until the congressman took the stand in his own defense Saturday. He tearfully expressed regret to the victim’s.
When Janklow said under cross-examination that he was unable to recall the accident for medical reasons, a prosecutor pounded him with questions about his driving habits. Asked if he would speed when he was in a hurry, speed without his emergency lights on, and speed through stop signs when he was driving too fast to slow down, Janklow said, “I probably have.”
The defense said that a diabetic reaction, caused by going without food that day, kept Janklow from thinking clearly when he ran the stop sign in August and that a heart medication called Atenolol kept him from knowing he was dangerously low on blood sugar. At the accident scene, Janklow first told officers he had swerved to avoid a white car that had crossed his path. The defense said he was confused when he said that because of the hypoglycemia and that he had suffered a head injury in the accident.