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Area lawyers weigh in on outcome of trial

With Dr. James G. Corasanti acquitted of all felony charges in the death of teenage longboard skater Alexandria Rice, lawyers who followed the case offered their best analysis on what shaped the outcome of the trial.

Barry N. Covert, a defense attorney who watched much of the trial:

"The defense [accident] reconstruction expert, and the blood-test expert were very good. And they supported the defense contentions that the accident reconstruction done by Amherst [police] was simply wrong and that there were some inherent problems with the blood test because the machine was not properly calibrated and the blood vials were not sealed

"Most primarily, the testimony of Dr. Corasanti caused the jury to find that the very high standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt was not achieved with respect to the felony offenses

"He was credible, he was appropriate, he responded to a withering cross-examination by [Prosecutor] Jim Bargnesi. And the acid test for any defendant who takes the stand is whether they can survive cross-examination."

James Auricchio, a former state and federal prosecutor and now a defense attorney:

"Whether or not he was drunk was one issue, but did that contribute to the accident? I think it's a difficult case for the prosecution to prove if that is the way the question is framed. And I think that's what the defense did a very good job [of doing].

"From what I heard about [defense lawyer Cheryl Meyers-Buth's closing], she went about it very analytically, respectfully. But at the end of the day the point was -- and I think it was taken by the jury -- that whether or not he was drunk, that didn't cause the accident

"You see so many people out there voicing very emotional opinions about this. But they weren't responsible for reaching a verdict; the jurors were."

Edward C. Cosgrove, former Erie County district attorney now in private practice:

Of the defense: "They were able to have the jury understand that there is a presumption of innocence and [raise] the question of whether this very nice young woman was in the traveling lane or not.

"And they were able to project that circumstance, with a reasonable presentation of the evidence, into the jurors' minds.

"And -- only a guess -- [that] it probably didn't make a difference whether he'd had a beer or not -- the accident was going to happen."

On Corasanti testifying: "That can be very risky. What would have happened if emotion had completely taken over this man's presentation? Those three [defense] lawyers did a wonderful job."

On the public reaction: "We expect but don't always get the best advocacy from both the prosecution and the defense. In this particular instance, the advocacy was superb on both sides. The jury was well-selected, the judge did her marvelous job, the jury apparently did not disregard the law and they came to a conclusion. That's the way the system is supposed to work. And I am appalled that that is not understood within the body of our citizenry."

Mario A. Giacobbe, a former head of Erie County's DWI prosecution team, now in private practice:

"It's always a hard choice that you have to make as a defense attorney -- that the defendant should testify, or not testify. There are risks that you run. But in this case I don't think there was a choice, really. There weren't any real witnesses to the actual incident itself. The only one really in a position to be a witness was Dr. Corasanti himself

"They obviously found his version of the events credible, plausible and -- based upon the law they were given -- they found reasonable doubt

"These are very, very difficult cases to prove. A lot of the times these are accidents that occur, and it's not the fact that someone's drinking is the cause of it. For example, someone could just be running out in the middle of the street and get hit. It doesn't make [the driver] responsible for vehicular homicide."