LAWRENCEVILLE - Nazim Chandrani's lifelong struggle with epilepsy turned deadly in October 2005 when, gripped by a seizure, he drove his Acura headlong into oncoming traffic on U.S. Highway 78, killing a Marietta motorist, Chandrani's attorney said Wednesday.
Chandrani is on trial this week facing vehicular homicide charges in the death of Kevin Thiel. Prosecutors say Chandrani, of Snellville, drove his 2002 Acura recklessly through rush-hour traffic before striking Thiel's 1999 Plymouth Voyager head-on; his defense attorney argues the crash was brought on by Chandrani's complex seizures.
Dr. Badar Syed, a Snellville neurologist, testified that Chandrani has a history of seizures severe enough to affect his consciousness dating back to boyhood. Chandrani's condition likely played a part in the crash, the doctor said.
"It's possible he had a seizure and lost contact with reality," Syed said.
Chandrani was driving with his 3-year-old niece when he began swerving around traffic, his car sideswiping another vehicle before striking Thiel's van near Ross Road. Thiel died at the scene. Chandrani claims the last details he recalls that day were turning onto U.S. 78 and having a "bad taste" in his mouth associated with oncoming seizures, his defense attorney Jeffrey Sliz said.
Chandrani suffered two seizures while he and his young passenger were later hospitalized at Grady Memorial Hospital, Syed testified.
Tests yielded no evidence of alcohol or illegal drugs in Chandrani's bloodstream at the time of the crash, Sliz said.
Georgia law prohibits licensed drivers who have experienced a seizure only in the previous six months from operating a vehicle. Chandrani last reported having a seizure about five years prior to the crash, Syed testified.
David Fife, Chief Deputy Assistant District Attorney, argued that Chandrani was in control of his faculties enough to snake his car in and out of lanes, avoiding some other vehicles, before the impact. Fife suggested the suspect's memory loss could have resulted from a severe concussion.
Chandrani was arrested Nov. 9, 2005, after his release from the hospital. He posted $98,500 bond and was released from the Gwinnett County Jail about a month later.
Superior Court Judge Tom Davis scheduled testimony to resume at 9 a.m. today. The jury is expected to enter deliberations shortly thereafter.