BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - After deliberating for about 12 hours, an Erie County Court jury acquitted an Amherst doctor of all serious charges he faced for an accident that killed an 18-year-old girl.
Alexandria Rice was skateboarding home along Heim Road last July when Dr. James Corasanti hit her with his BMW. Rice's body was thrown over 150 feet and she was declared dead a short time later.
Prosecutors contended the doctor was drunk, speeding, and texting at the time of the crash. Corasanti's defense team argued the accident was tragic and horrible - but not criminal. They compelled the jury to believe that Corasanti did not know he hit Rice, and that if he had, he would have stopped to help.
Dr. Corasanti took the stand in his own defense, and that's what Erie County District Attorney Frank Sedita believed helped sway the jury.
"The jury apparently chose to credit the testimony of Dr. Corasanti and to believe the version of events and various explanations put forth," he said.
But Corasanti's defense team says the jury made the right call in this case.
Attorney Tom Burton said, "There's a family there that lost a loved one. We believe the jury understood this for what it was: a tragic, horrible accident."
The jury did find the Amherst doctor guilty of common law DWI. News 4 legal analyst Frank Clark explained that the charge means the jury felt that the doctor was indeed drunk, but that there was no evidence of that other than observation.
Before rendering their verdict, the jury had struggled with a lesser drunk driving charge: DWI per se. After being deadlocked for two hours and having asked the judge to re-read the charge and to see the guest checks from the country club Corasanti was at, the DWI kit used to determine his BAC, the batch run sheets, and to see the instructions for the blood kit, prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed to allow the jury to read their decision.
Sedita says it is not clear if the People will prosecute Corasanti for the deadlocked DWI charge with a new trial and a new jury.
The community is reacting strongly to the verdict. Many gathered on Heim Road where Alix Rice was hit and killed, hugging and saying prayers over what they called a miscarriage of justice.
Corasanti had been charged with vehicular manslaughter, manslaughter, leaving the scene of a fatal accident and tampering with evidence. You can learn what the jury had to consider for each charge here.
His trial got underway on April 26 and was given to the jury on May 29. They deliberated for three hours that night and from 9:30 a.m. Wednesday until about 7 p.m.
Corasanti will be sentenced on August 16th. For the misdemeanor common law DWI charge, he faces a maximum penalty of one year in jail.
He remains free on bail.
Many viewers were outraged by the jury's decision. We encourage you to leave your comments here.
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