Prosecution rests in Leyritz DUI death trial

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FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (AP) - The prosecution rested Wednesday in the DUI manslaughter trial of former major league baseball player Jim Leyritz, after a crash reconstruction expert said Leyritz wasn’t speeding before the crash that killed a 30-year-old woman.

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 the victim, Fredia Ann 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.

Prosecutor Stefanie Newman rested her case on the trial’s seventh day, after testimony from 20 witnesses. The defense is expected to begin its case Monday morning, although it is unclear if Leyritz will testify. Leyritz, 46, faces between four and 15 years behind bars if convicted.

Circuit Judge Marc Gold denied a motion for acquittal by Leyritz attorney David Bogenschutz, who contended there is “insufficient evidence” to submit the case to a jury. “I have to look at the evidence in the light most favorable to the state,” Gold said.

Veitch’s vehicle was traveling between 33 mph and 40 mph before the collision, Felicella testified. Under cross-examination, Felicella said his examination of the Montero’s intact lights did not turn up residual evidence of heat or “hot shock,” which is used to help determine if the lights were on.

But, he cautioned, lack of that evidence “does not necessarily mean the lamps were off or on.”

A police investigator testified previously that the light switch in Veitch’s vehicle was in the “on” position and that she did find evidence of “hot shock” in at least some of the lamps.

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.

Earlier this year, Leyritz settled a wrongful death lawsuit by agreeing to pay Veitch’s family $250,000 in insurance and $1,000 in monthly payments out of his own pocket for 100 months.

Leyritz, mainly a catcher in an 11-season big league career, played for the Yankees, Angels, Rangers, Red Sox, Padres and Dodgers. His last season was 2000.

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