Jury resumes deliberations in Corasanti trial: Prosecution, defense present closing arguments

May 30, 2012

Jury deliberations will resume at 9:30 Wednesday morning in the trial of Dr. James Corasanti of Amherst.

Closing arguments were heard Tuesday in the vehicular manslaughter trial of Corasanti, who is accused in the hit-and-run death of Alexandria Rice.  Jurors were charged by the judge and began deliberations late Tuesday afternoon and worked until 9 p.m. before being sequestered for the night.

During their deliberations, jurors made several requests.  They asked for a chalkboard, post-it notes and autopsy photos. They also re-examined Corasanti's vehicle as they review the manslaughter charges against him.

The panel heard nearly three hours of closing arguments Tuesday from both sides in Erie County Court. 

Corasanti, 56, faces several charges, including vehicular manslaughter, in connection with the death of 18-year-old Alexandria Rice.  Rice was skateboarding along Heim Road last July when she was struck and killed by Corasanti's vehicle.

For the defense team, attorney Cheryl Meyers-Buth said it is impossible that Rice was hit from behind. Meyers-Buth said it's "inconsistent with the physical facts" and that the fluid trail from Corasanti's car shows he was not driving recklessly. 

"And where did the fluid trail go? Did it cross the center line? No. Did it go over the fog line? No. Does it show reckless or erratic driving? No way. Right down the westbound lane," said Meyers-Buth.

Meyers-Buth told the jury "it was a tragic accident, but not a crime."

"That's what it all comes down to, an accident. Not a crime. Not reckless manslaughter. Not vehicular manslaughter. Not leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death. When he couldn't have seen her under any circumstances," Meyers-Buth said.

Throughout his closing, lead prosecutor James Bargnesi emphasized to the jury several times that Corasanti refused to take a breathalyzer test.  Corasanti's blood alcohol count, Bargnesi said, would not have been over the legal limit five hours after Rice was killed.

"If he wasn't drunk, he would have taken the breathalyzer test and we would have that reading here with us in this courtroom," Bargnesi said.

Bargnesi said Corasanti made up one excuse after another for "selfish reasons."

"Every excuse from this defendant on that witness stand was just that: one excuse after another from his version, and his version alone, of what took place, and nothing more."

Charges against Dr. Corasanti include vehicular manslaughter, leaving the scene of an accident without reporting resulting in death, and two counts of tampering with evidence.  If convicted, he could serve more than 20 years in jail.