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4 alternates complete Corasanti jury selection

Jury selection for the Dr. James G. Corasanti manslaughter trial ended Tuesday with the selection of three women and a man as alternates.

Earlier, a jury of eight men and four women was selected to decide whether Corasanti committed manslaughter and other crimes when his BMW fatally struck skateboarder Alexandria "Alix" Rice, 18, in a hit-and-run incident last summer in Amherst.

The alternates will be available to replace any of the 12 jurors who cannot serve for the duration of the trial, scheduled to begin Thursday.

Erie County Judge Sheila A. DiTullio doubled the number of alternates because of the trial's expected one-month duration. It is quite possible that one or more alternates will be called upon to eventually deliberate, DiTullio said.

Christopher J. Belling, a senior trial counsel in the Erie County District Attorney's Office, has been added to the prosecution team, joining James F. Bargnesi, head of the Homicide Bureau, and Kelley A. Omel, chief of the Vehicular Crimes Bureau.

Belling questioned potential jurors Tuesday, urging them to "evaluate actions, not people." He asked them if they felt pressure because the defendant is a medical doctor.

"We all have a degree of respect for physicians," Belling said.

Defense attorney Cheryl Meyers-Buth, in turn, asked potential jurors if they could evaluate Rice's "conduct as well."

It was the first time over four days of jury selection that a defense lawyer asked potential jurors to consider Rice's actions.

Defense attorney Joel L. Daniels has previously called the incident "an accident."

During a hearing in February, Daniels said Rice had marijuana in her system, chose to ride her longboard at night, and was crouched low and not wearing reflective clothing.

In a pretrial skirmish Tuesday, Daniels asked DiTullio to require the prosecutors to reveal the order in which their witnesses will be called to testify and to give the three defense lawyers at least a day's notice of who will testify each day.

Daniels said he had made the request of Bargnesi without success. "He's been more or less nonresponsive," Daniels told the judge.

Bargnesi replied that prosecutors have turned over to the defense lawyers the statements of witnesses who are expected to testify at the trial. They did so 10 days before they were required to do so, Bargnesi said.

"There's no game of hide-and-seek here," Bargnesi said in court. "They know exactly what every witness said. There's not really much mystery."

What's more, the defense did not submit a list of witnesses before jury selection started.

DiTullio, saying she had guarded against "trial by ambush," reminded Daniels that the prosecution is not required to provide the order of its witnesses.

"It's unusual we don't have a defense witness list," DiTullio said, although she noted that the defense lawyers were not required to do so.

The judge also pointed out that the prosecutors turned over witness statements before they were legally required to do so.

The judge declined Daniels' request.