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Witnesses describe evidence in garage; Corasanti's lawyer attempts to debunk prosecution's claims about piece of flesh

A defense lawyer for Dr. James G. Corasanti continued efforts Friday to chip away at the prosecution's case, including the evidence-tampering charge concerning human tissue found in the garage of the doctor's Getzville home.

Prosecutors expect to rest their case against Corasanti early next week but were not sure on which day.

Det. Sgt. Michael Sliwa of the Amherst Police Department testified in Erie County Court that he found what looked like a piece of human flesh, the size of a dime, on a doorway step in Corasanti's garage.

Sliwa was summoned to the home to collect evidence hours after Corasanti fatally struck 18-year-old longboard skater Alexandria Rice with his BMW on July 8.

The location of the human tissue, a couple of feet from the parked car, prompted prosecutors to charge Corasanti with evidence tampering.

"That was somehow removed from the front of the defendant's vehicle and was located a few feet away in the defendant's garage," prosecutor James F. Bargnesi said in his opening statement two weeks ago. "It didn't fall off. It didn't drop off. It was removed."

On Friday, the 10th day of Corasanti's manslaughter and hit-and-run trial, defense attorney Thomas H. Burton asked Sliwa if it seemed Corasanti was trying to conceal the human flesh.

"No, we didn't have to move anything" to see it, Sliwa replied.

Burton also asked Sliwa if there is "an iota of a suggestion" that someone tried to wipe away the flesh.

"No, it doesn't look like that," the detective said.

During her questioning, prosecutor Kelley A. Omel asked Sliwa if he would have found the human tissue where he did had it just fallen off the car. "Probably not," Sliwa said.

Defense attorney Joel L. Daniels previously addressed the human tissue during his opening statement.

After Corasanti struck Rice on Heim Road in Amherst, he drove away without stopping and parked the car in his garage. Shortly after Corasanti arrived home, he and his wife, Laureen, looked at the front passenger side of the car, Daniels said.

"They looked at the damage," Daniels said. "He saw a small piece of tissue. He knew he hit something, but he didn't know what.

"With his finger, he took that piece of tissue, and wiped it off the bumper to take a closer look. It was in the right corner of the bumper," Daniels said.

"He's a doctor. He looked at it. He dropped it down on the wooden step next to the doorway into the house," Daniels said.

"He didn't take it and throw it in some garbage can," he said. "He didn't try to hide it. He didn't try to deep-six it. He had it on his finger.

"He dropped it on the step on the doorway," Daniels said. "That's when he started to become very upset. He thought to himself, 'Did I hit a person?' "

Amherst Police Det. Peter Crofut testified Friday that he found a "clearly visible" palm print on the hood of the BMW that matches Corasanti.

Crofut also said he noticed "a lot of smearing" of biological material on the right front bumper.

Crofut said a palm print found on top of the biological material shows the material was there before the palm print.

"There is a lot of smearing in different directions on the right front bumper," he said.

Crofut also testified a towel that prosecutors say police recovered from Corasanti's trash had a smell of human "decomposition."

Other white towels with the same blue piping were found in Corasanti's BMW, he said.

During Burton's cross examination, Crofut said DNA tests of the towel showed no connection to Corasanti or Rice. "There is no decomposing flesh I observed on the rag," he said.

He also testified he could not see any blood on the towel.

Corasanti, 56, faces charges of second-degree vehicular manslaughter, second-degree manslaughter, leaving the scene of an incident without reporting resulting in death and tampering with physical evidence. Prosecutors have said Corasanti was drunk, speeding and texting on his way home from a country club outing when he struck the young woman and then drove away.

Corasanti's defense lawyers have said he was not impaired at the time of the fatal incident and that he did not realize he had struck a person until after he arrived home.