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Former Yankee slugger’s DUI manslaughter trial starts

Former New York Yankees catcher and 1996 World Series hero Jim Leyritz is on trial for DUI manslaughter. Leyritz is accused of operating a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol, causing the death of Freida Veitch, who was driving the vehicle with which Leyritz collided in Florida. In Illinois, this offense is known as reckless homicide.
The trial has just begun but there have already been a couple of interesting turns. Evidence shows that Veitch had a blood alcohol content of .18, well above the legal limt of .08. Leyritz’s blood alcohol level 3 hours after the crash was .14. An expert for the state, relying upon the alcohol absorption curve, concluded that Leyritz’s alcohol content at the time he was driving would have been .18.

Before the trial started, the prosecutor had obtained a ruling from the judge that the jury would not be allowed to hear evidence of Veitch’s alleged intoxication. These pretrial motions are known as motions in limine.

In a jury trial, one of the judge’s most important functions is to make rulings on whether the jury will be allowed to hear certain testimony. In some instances, a question is asked and the opposing attorney shouts “objection!” and the judge decides whether or not the witness will be allowed to answer the question. If he says “overruled”, the witness will be allowed to answer. If he says “sustained”, the witness will not be allowed to answer.

Every DUI lawyer knows, however, that there are certain questions that are so damaging that if the jury even hears the question, a sustained objection will not undo the damage that asking the question has created. This is the concept of not being able to “put toothpaste back in the tube” or “un-ring the bell”.

In order to prevent the question from being asked, the judge will order both parties, before the trial even starts, not to bring up the issue. In this case, the issue was Veitch’s intoxication.

However, the prosecutor allowed the defense lawyer to ask a friend who was with Veitch earlier that night where she had been and how much she had to drink. Furthermore, the prosecutor, when it was her turn to question the witness, asked even more questions about the same topic.

Why she allowed this line of questioning and then continued with her own questioning is hard to explain. The judge was furious with her doing so.

A passenger in Leyritz’s vehicle was expected to testify that Leyritz had the red light. Instead, he testified that the light turned from green to yellow just as Leyritz entered the intersection, thereby suggesting one of those situations where you have to make a split second decision, do I slam on the brakes or continue through the intersection?

A pedestrian testified that Leyritz’s light was red. However, he admitted that he was not looking at the light at the moment Leyritz entered the intersection but looked up at it as soon as he heard brakes squealing. The problem is, there were no skid marks.

At the beginning of this case, it appeared to be cut and dried that Leyritz was guilty. But things are looking up for him. If you are arrested for DUI, don’t throw away your legal rights and automatically plead guilty.

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