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Alix's family also victims of Corasanti

We have met the other victims.

Alix Rice was not the only casualty on the night of July 8. She was just the one who lost her life. There are loved ones who lost something almost as precious -- her.

We cannot gauge the hopes and dreams of the mother who raised her. We cannot put a number on the brief memories of the father who had just reconnected with his daughter. We can only weigh their grief by watching their faces, by weighing their words.

"She was our immortality, she was our beauty, she was our future," said Richard Rice. "It's gone."

Alix Rice's parents sat in front of TV cameras and notebooks Thursday and bared their open wounds. Their pain merely underlined what seemed like a miscarriage of justice.

Dr. James Corasanti, after a night of drinking at a country club last July 8, crashed his BMW into the teenager as she rode home from work on her longboard. The gastrointestinal specialist, who was still drunk five hours after the incident, kept driving. He said he did not realize that he hit a person. His actions in the hours after the crash contradict the claim -- from calling his lawyer instead of dialing 911, to refusing a Breathalyzer test 2 1/2 hours after blasting Rice off the side of Heim Road.

Yet Corasanti was convicted Wednesday only of misdemeanor drunken driving, not of any felony.

"Unhappy, shocked, dissatisfied," said Tammy Schueler, Alix's mother. "I don't think anyone saw it coming."

Alix Rice was a free-spirited kid who wore mismatched socks and loved her longboard so much she named it. That was "Rupert" we saw, in pieces, in the courtroom. She liked camping and adventures. She once took the bus into Buffalo to self-explore City Hall. She commonly was the only girl working with the guys at Bocce Pizza.

Mingled with the grief of the girl's loss is a reality that seems incomprehensible to many: How 12 jurors swallowed Corasanti's story -- even clearing him of the seemingly obvious felony of leaving the scene of a deadly crash.

I respect the jury's service. They saw and heard every particle of evidence and every word of testimony. But I spoke with nonjurors who watched the case unfold, and who were shocked by the verdict.

The jury foreman told The News' Patrick Lakamp that the defense's hired-gun experts poked holes in the prosecution's case. Specifically, testimony on the impact-absorbing and soundproofing qualities of Corasanti's luxury sedan -- unrefuted by the prosecution -- made plausible to jurors the doctor's claim that he did not know he hit someone. To twist a line from the O.J. Simpson trial: If the BMW is well-equipped, you must acquit.

My sense is that, by endlessly working the details, the defense distracted jurors from the bigger picture. When you look too hard at individual trees, you miss the forest.

Lost amidst the esoterica of blood draws and automobile engineering was the larger picture of Corasanti's actions in the hours after the crash. They were, to my mind, the moves and motivations of a man with something to hide.

Call it Justice Undone. A girl is dead. Her parents are emotionally shattered.

The last line of defense is the judge. Sheila DiTullio on Aug. 18 can sentence Corasanti -- who pleaded guilty to an alcohol-related driving violation 15 years ago -- to up to a year jail on the misdemeanor DWI conviction. It will not bring Alix back, or heal her parents' hearts. But it would, to me, inject into the case a measure of justice.

It may not seem like much. At this point, it is the best that Alix Rice's shattered parents may get.

email: desmonde@buffnews.com