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Ex-Yankee catcher not guilty of DUI manslaughter charge

The jury has spoken. Former Yankees catcher Jim Leyritz has been found not guilty of DUI manslaughter. Leyritz was, however, found guilty of the DUI charge.

Leyritz had been charged with reckless homicide and DUI after being involved in an intersection crash in Florida. From the outset, the case did not appear to be going in the prosecutor’s favor. The defense was able to present the jury with testimony that the deceased driver was intoxicated even though the judge had ruled the jury should not hear such evidence.

As the trial progressed, things got worse for the state’s case. The state presented two witnesses in an effort to prove that Leyritz ran a red light and thereby caused the other driver’s death. However, one witness admitted that he did not see the light but only looked at it when tires screeched. The other witness, Leyritz’s passenger, said the light was yellow. If the light was red, then Leyritz caused the accident and ensuing death; if it was yellow, it is possible the other driver ran the red light.

Evidence as to the DUI charge showed that Leyritz had a blood alcohol content of at least .14 and as much as .18. The legal limit for intoxication is .08. While Leyritz attempted, through his attorney, the discredit the state’s toxicology expert and presented his own expert, the jury was not persuaded.

It is reported that Leyritz faces a maximum of 6 months in jail due to the DUI conviction, must less than the 15 years he would have faced if convicted of reckless homicide. Florida, like Illinois, attaches much more serious penalties to a reckless homicide conviction than to a DUI conviction. Illinois law provides for a felony conviction from a first DUI involving death or great bodily harm but the offender is eligible for probation and thus no jail or prison time. Reckless homicide results in 3-14 years of imprisonment unless the judge finds “extraordinary circumstances” to impose probation, which must be at least 6 years and up to 28 years.

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