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Closing Arguments To Begin In Leyritz DUI Manslaughter Case

FORT LAUDERDALE (CBS4) - Closing arguments are scheduled to begin Thursday in the DUI manslaughter trial of former major league baseball player Jim Leyritz.

After ten days of testimony, the jury must sort through conflicting expert testimony about whether Leyritz was drunk when he was involved in a 2007 crash that killed 30-year-old Fredia Ann Veitch.  Jurors will also have to decide if Leyritz ran a red light or only yellow.

A defense expert testified Wednesday that Leyritz wasn't drunk. Toxicologist Dr. Stefan Rose testified that Leyritz had a blood-alcohol level under Florida's 0.08 percent limit when crash occurred. Rose said Leyritz's alcohol level rose to 0.14 percent hours after the crash because he had a vodka shot minutes earlier.

Prosecution experts earlier estimated a crash-time 0.19 percent alcohol level for Leyritz.

 Another defense witness, Dr. Mazyar Rouhani, said he prescribed medication for a concussion for Leyritz a day and a half after the crash. This is key, defense attorney David Bogenschutz said, because a concussion affects how fast a person's stomach empties, which could have skewed Leyritz's later blood test results. Leyritz told the doctor his head struck the windshield of his Ford Expedition, although the vehicle bore no cracks or other signs of that.

The prosecution rested last week after a crash reconstruction expert said Leyritz wasn't speeding before the crash that killed Veitch.

Testifying for the prosecution, crash expert Donald Felicella said based on the damage to Leyritz's red Ford Expedition and other factors, his vehicle was going about 35 mph -- the posted speed limit -- when it approached the intersection shortly after 3 a.m. on Dec. 28, 2007.

"There was not anything to indicate that speed was a factor," Felicella told jurors, adding later that airbags did not deploy in either vehicle and there was no indication that either driver hit the brakes.

Leyritz, remembered for his dramatic 1996 World Series home run for the New York Yankees, is accused of driving drunk, running a red light and slamming into a Mitsubishi Montero driven by Veitch. Leyritz's blood-alcohol level was 0.14 percent about three hours after the crash, well above Florida's 0.08 percent limit, and may have been as high as 0.19 percent when the crash happened, according to trial testimony.

Veitch, a mother of two, was thrown from her vehicle by the impact of the crash. Evidence shows that she was also drunk, with a blood-alcohol level of 0.18 when the collision occurred, and was not wearing a seat belt.

Last May, Leyritz settled a wrongful death lawsuit brought by Veitch's family for $250,000 in insurance and $1,000 in monthly payments out of his own pocket for 100 months.

Leyritz, 46, faces between four and 15 years behind bars if convicted.

(© 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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