The community was shocked by the jury's decision in the trial of Dr. James G. Corasanti and, frankly, how could it not be?
Given the amount of alcohol Corasanti consumed in an evening of country-clubbing, given that the hood of his car was crumpled from the impact of plowing into 18-year-old Alix Rice and given that he still claimed he didn't know he had hit someone, the fact that he was acquitted of the felonies he faced beggars the imagination.
Still, the jury heard the evidence, and it agreed unanimously to convict the drunken doctor only of misdemeanor driving while intoxicated. Thus, Rice's death will cost Corasanti no more than a year in jail. The justice his legal defense team was able to access was apparently well worth the expense.
Whatever anyone thinks of the verdict, though — and Corasanti has his defenders — there are lessons to be learned or, more accurately, relearned. First is that the consequences of drinking and driving can be devastating.
Corasanti had spent the evening at Transit Valley Country Club and he was drunk. If he weren't so reckless, Alix Rice would almost certainly be alive. Her family and friends wouldn't be grieving a needless and stupid death. Corasanti and his family wouldn't have had to endure a grueling trial and aftermath, which will include a civil lawsuit.
For defendants lacking Corasanti's evident wealth — that is, the millions of New Yorkers without the means to hire expensive lawyers — the consequences of killing a young girl while driving drunk would be dramatically different. Drunken homicide, which is always the risk of drinking and driving, is not worth the buzz. You'd think a doctor would know better.
Texting while driving is, by most accounts, as dangerous as drinking and driving. Corasanti was doing that, too — while he was drunk. His recklessness was exponential. But the temptation to reach for the phone while driving isn't reserved for drunken drivers. It is ubiquitous and hazardous. Western New York has seen many deaths caused by texting while driving. They weren't worth the moments saved.
Corasanti was also speeding while he was drunk and texting. Speeding always raises the risk of a catastrophe, especially late at night, let alone doing so while intoxicated and texting. It's not worth the moments saved.
The jury made the decision it thought was right, even if most observers can't reconcile it with the facts. And, of course, even a different verdict wouldn't have done anything to reverse the avoidable tragedy that occurred last July 8. But if a few more of us learn the lessons that meant nothing to Corasanti, there may be fewer Alix Rices to mourn.