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Toxicologist clarifies data on Corasanti, victim
Blood analysis in fatal hit-run negligible for skateboarder, high in alcohol for doctor

Alexandria "Alix" Rice had such a small amount of marijuana in her system the night she was fatally struck by a car while skateboarding that exposure to secondhand smoke could account for it, a toxicologist testified Thursday.

Also, tests showed that the young woman did not have any alcohol in her system, said Robert J. Osiewicz, chief toxicologist for the Erie County Medical Examiner's Office.

Meanwhile, a blood test showed Dr. James G. Corasanti, the driver of the car, registered a 0.10 percent blood-alcohol content five hours after the late-night hit-and-run incident July 8 on Heim Road in Amherst. That means Corasanti would have had a reading of anywhere from 0.14 to 0.21 percent at the time he was driving, Osiewicz said.

"I tend to be conservative in my approach," Osiewicz said of the measurements he used to extrapolate Corasanti's level of intoxication while driving.

In a separate development, an alternate replaced one of the 12 jurors at the start of the fifth day of the 56-year-old Getzville doctor's manslaughter trial in Erie County Court.

Thursday, the nurse who drew Corasanti's blood and the three toxicologists who handled and analyzed his blood each took turns on the witness stand.

For defense lawyer Joel L. Daniels, who cross-examined all of them, it was a long day of trying to poke holes in how they collected, stored and analyzed his client's blood.

Daniels spent only a few minutes asking about Rice's toxicology report. But Osiewicz's responses revealed information about her condition at the time of the incident that could help the prosecution.

Daniels asked Osiewicz whether he found evidence of marijuana in her system, and whether it "was not an insignificant amount."

"It is a very low amount," Osiewicz replied.

So low, asked prosecutor Christopher J. Belling, that secondhand smoke might account for it?

"These levels would also be consistent with that," Osiewicz said. "That is also a possibility."

A motorist who testified last week said Rice was riding her longboard "in a controlled fashion" along Heim Road.

Also, one of Rice's co-workers at Bocce Club Pizza on Hopkins Road in Amherst, from where she left on her longboard on that fateful night, said he did not see her smoke marijuana during the hours the two worked together. He said the pizzeria's employees "were kind of brazen about" smoking during their work breaks.

The nurse who drew Corasanti's blood for a court-ordered blood sample said there was nothing unusual about the draw.

Hope M. Dalrymple, a registered nurse at Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, testified Thursday that she drew his blood at 4:21 a.m. July 9. That was five hours after authorities were alerted by a 911 call about the fatal hit-and-run incident that killed the 18-year-old skateboarder.

She said she has drawn blood thousands of times in her 19-year nursing career.

Dalrymple said she was aware she was drawing blood as part of a court order and that someone had died in an incident that involved Corasanti.

When prosecutor Kelley A. Omel asked if she noticed Corasanti's eyes, Dalrymple said, "They appeared a little glassy."

Dalrymple said she first tried to draw blood from near Corasanti's elbow but got only a few drops because she said she missed a vein. She said she used a second needle to draw blood from a vein in his left hand.

Daniels asked the nurse why she did not completely fill any of the three tubes with Corasanti's blood.

The first tube had barely any blood.

Daniels asked if the vacuum tube needle had a defect that might have prevented her from correctly drawing his blood.

The nurse said she just missed his vein.

"I think I missed the vein more than anything with the vacuum tube," she said.

Daniels also asked why the other two tubes were filled with only 6 milliliters of blood, not the 10 milliliters each of the tubes can hold.

"I don't know how they were designed to fill," she replied. "When blood stops flowing in the tube, I stop."

William F. Kaufman, a toxicologist at the Medical Examiner's Office who analyzed Corasanti's blood, said many of the tubes of blood he analyzes as part of his job have 6 milliliters of blood. "It looked like a normal amount," Kaufman said of the tubes holding Corasanti's blood.

Daniels sought to cast doubt on Osiewicz's extrapolation of Corasanti's blood-test results. "You cannot be sure what he had to drink, right?" Daniels asked.

"You were not at Transit Valley [Country Club] with Dr. Corasanti," he said.

"No," Osiewicz replied.

Daniels asked the toxicologist if he knew when Corasanti had his last drink, how fast and how much he consumed, or what food he had eaten that evening while he golfed and socialized at the country club.

The toxicologist said he was told Corasanti had a glass of wine as his final drink at about 9:45 p.m.

"You don't know whether he drank a full glass, half of it, or just a few sips, right?" Daniels asked.

"Correct," the toxicologist said.

"I made assumptions based on the information I was given," Osiewicz said.

Osiewicz said he offered a range of extrapolated amounts -- from 0.14 to 0.21 percent -- to account for the multiple factors that affect the absorption of alcohol into a person's bloodstream.