Not guilty verdict on all of the major charges against Corasanti

May 31, 2012

An Erie County Court  jury has found Dr. James Corasanti not guilty on all of the major charges against him in the death of 18-year-old Alexandria Rice.

Jurors returned to the courtroom just before 7:30 p.m. Wednesday to issue their verdict.

The jury acquitted the 56-year-old Corasanti on second-degree manslaughter, second-degree vehicular manslaughter, leaving the scene of an incident without reporting, resulting death, and tampering with physical evidence.  

 Corasanti was only convicted of a misdemeanor commonlaw driving while intoxicated charge. He will be sentenced August 16.

"He was just overcome with emotion," said Defense Attorney Joel Daniels.

Reporters asked defense attorney Joel Daniels if he thinks Corasanti will be sent to jail on the DWI conviction.

"We're hopeful he won't.  The jury acquitted him of very, very serious charges and found him guilty of a crime for which most people usually don't go to jail," said Daniels. 

Daniels said there will be a request to Judge Sheila DiTullio not to give jail time on the misdemeanor drunken driving charge.

The family of Alix Rice did not speak to reporters following the verdict as they had planned.  They appeared to be crushed after hearing the jury’s decision.

Erie County District Attorney Frank Sedita offered remarks in response to the surprise verdict.

"Obviously we're disappointed and frankly shocked at the verdict," said Sedita. "But I'm not going to stand here tonight and criticize the deliberations or the verdict of an Erie County criminal  jury."

During the month-long trial, prosecutors had argued that Corasanti was drunk, texting and speeding when he struck and killed Rice along Heim Road after he left the Transit Valley Country Club last July 8. Defense attorneys countered that he didn't know he'd hit a person until he got home and began investigating the damage to his car.  

Jurors were deadlocked on a lesser charge of vehicular manslaughter earlier in the day.  They passed a note to the judge around 5:15 p.m. requesting a re-read of the lesser 'DWI per se' law.

Along with the re-read, the jury also requested the "batch run" sheet that contains the lab test results of Corasanti's blood alcohol content from the fatal night.  

Earlier in the afternoon, the jury was instructed to consider lesser charges of driving while intoxicated or impaired if they were unable to reach a verdict on the vehicular manslaughter charge. The jury asked the judge whether a decision on a less serious charge would have to be unanimous.

Erie County Court Judge Sheila DiTullio read the legal definition of vehicular manslaughter and told the jury that they cannot decide beyond a reasonable doubt, they should consider lesser charges. 

Corasanti had faced up to 23 years in prison if he had been convicted of all the felony charges.

The jury, consisting 0f seven men and five women, deliberated for two days following closing arguments on Tuesday.