Buffalo, NY (WBEN) Thursday, WBEN's Tom Puckett spoke with the foreman of the James Corasanti jury about the process in reaching the not guilty verdicts against Corasanti. Friday, Tom sat down with another juror who says while the evidence didn't meet the statutes to reach a conviction, he and his colleagues did not agree with the defendant's actions.
The juror, asking only to be known as Juror #8, says the panel first went over the charges of evidence tampering. "There was just enough evidence present to have gulity verdicts on those two charges," says the juror. "We needed way more information than what was provided during the trial, so we immediately found him not guilty on those charges." Juror #8 went on to explain, "The only evidence in tampering with the car was a swirl mark on the front of the car, and then the prosecution claimed the doctor had done that. There was no DNA evidence of the doctor near the area. The only evidence of the doctor near the front of the car was a hand print and he freely admitted touching the car when he looked down at the front of the car," says the juror. When it came to the tissue matter, Juror #8 says Corasanti did not hide it. "He left it there and I'm sure he never thought about it," says the juror, who adds the rag in question had no evidence of tissue, no sign of blood on two spots and there was doubt on another spot on the rag.
When it came to the charge of leaving the scene of a fatal accident, the jury initially was looking at a conviction. But Juror #8 says after looking at notes, the panel determined while Corasanti admitted to hitting Rice, "we believed him and his statement he did not see her when he hit her, he knew he hit something but he wasn't sure what it was." Juror #8 says the panel faults Corasanti for not stopping and staying, but the statute requires Corasanti knew at the time he hit a person, and that was not proven.
Juror #8 says the biggest element on the manslaughter charge was proof of Corasanti driving recklessly. "We determined we felt the reconstruction by the defendant's expert was more plausible and more likely than what the Amherst Police reconstruction specialist presented. Because of that, and other bits of evidence, we felt that Alix was partially responsible for Dr. Corasanti hitting her," explains the juror. "She had crossed in front of one driver at Dodge, he nearly hit her. He thought he had hit her. She then went to the other side of the road, crossed in front of another car driven by another witness. The other car that was turning missed her by five feet. The husband and wife never stated Rice had gone all the way over the fog line, and we had to assume she had not. The reconstruction expert determined she must have crossed in front of Corasanti's car and the majority of her longboard was in the road. The mark in road that police used to determine the point of impact, in our determination, was caused when the board was hit and split off at the front end, and was dug into the pavement."
Juror #8 went on to say the prosecution's case was based on the theory Rice being hit from behind. He says there was no evidence the board was hit from behind, and because of that, the jury moved Rice into the road and Corasanti was no longer over the fog line, convincing the jury to not convict Corasanti of manslaughter.
Juror #8 says the panel knew it would be looking at vehicular manslaughter for some time. He says the panel felt while Corasanti was intoxicated, it was not the cause of the accident, thus the not guilty verdict. "We placed more burden on Alix Rice's skating in his lane, in dark clothes, at night, no reflective (material), down low off the ground. That was probably the biggest cause of the accident," explains the juror. That's why the panel said not guilty on vehicular manslaughter, but the panel had extensive discussions on the dropdown charges. One of the lesser charges was DWI per se, which required .08 or greater BAC. Juror #8 says there was a lot of disagreement on the BAC at the time of the accident, and there was reasonable doubt because of the testing and the labs on the Corasanti BAC. Juror #8 says the common law DWI was discussed, and one of the elements was test refusal. He says because Corasanti refused, the panel voted to convict Corasanti on the common law charge, but the panel was split on the DWI per se charge.
Juror #8 says the jury was bound by its oath to take the evidence and determine if testimony was good, bad or in between, and put that against the statutes and determine if the evidence met the statutes for conviction. He says the jury is being maligned because the jurors followed the judge's instructions. "People think we're on board with him or we agreed with what he did. We don't. We don't agree with driving drunk, we don't agree with him leaving the scene, but we had an obligation to follow the statutes and determine if the evidence met those statutes," says Juror #8. He says the jurors were crying after reaching their verdicts.
To those who are critical of the jury, Juror #8 says the panel was not biased. "When we started, we agreed to not take either side. A lot of people complaining or are not happy about the verdict, they were biased from the start," he contends. "They had their mind made up Dr. Corasanti was guilty, and no matter what kind of evidence was brought in, and no matter how the defense defended him, they felt he was guilty. It's not fair to put us, the jurors, in that same boat, because we're held to a different standard."