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Defense Continues In Leyritz DUI Manslaughter Case

The defense team of former major league baseball player Jim Leyritz will continue its case Tuesday at his DUI manslaughter trial in Fort Lauderdale.

The defense case began Monday with an opening statement from Leyritz lawyer David Bogenschutz. He said Leyritz was not drunk and had a yellow light prior to a 2007 crash that killed a 30-year-old woman.

"At the point of impact, Jim Leyritz still had two seconds of yellow," Bogenschutz said. "That would put him 100 feet up the road if he didn't run into Frieda Veitch."

Bogenschutz told jurors a defense expert will show how blood alcohol tests taken three hours after the crash were unreliable. He claimed that Leyrtiz suffered a concussion in the crash and that a concussion affects how fast a person's body processes alcohol.

A key element of Florida DUI manslaughter law is whether a person who was drunk caused or contributed to the death of someone else. Evidence indicating that Veitch may have been at least somewhat at fault for the crash could work in Leyritz's favor.

The first 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, 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.

Bogenschutz said phone records and a crash reconstruction expert will show that victim Fredia Ann Veitch ran the red light, was speeding and may have had her lights off before impact.

"By the end of this case, you will have no doubt that there is at least reasonable doubt," Bogenschutz told jurors in an opening statement he chose to deliver in the middle of the trial rather than its start.

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. The jury could get the case as early as this week. It is unlikely that Leyritz himself will take the witness stand.


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