Tonawanda News

June 1, 2012

Wealth more than facts decided Corasanti's fate

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — It is fair to say that residents the region over were shocked Wednesday when 12 of those among us agreed that Dr. James Corasanti bore no responsibility in the death of 18-year-old Alix Rice, whom Corasanti hit and killed while driving drunk in Amherst last July.

The jury’s not-guilty verdict doesn’t pass a first-glance examination of the facts:

• Corasanti was legally drunk even five hours after the accident when a court-ordered blood test found his blood alcohol content to be 0.1 percent. (Corasanti refused an initial breath test.)

• The hood of his BMW was substantially dented, enough so that anyone looking at it would credibly wonder how someone could deny knowing he’d hit something. When he came home, he found blood and tissue resulting from the impact. A respected doctor would certainly know it was human in origin.

But in a rush to condemn a jury, we should offer deference to our legal system and the jurors’ deliberations. These people all but gave up their lives these last few weeks and we find it impossible to think their verdict was anything other than a hard-come-by decision they saw as fair.

Whether we agree or not with the outcome, our justice system dictates trials be decided in a courtroom, not the court of public opinion — and for good reason.

The problem, though, is the influence Dr. Corasanti’s substantial wealth had on the trial’s outcome. A team of highly talented — and highly expensive — lawyers worked ceaselessly to assemble a raft of highly talented — and equally highly expensive — expert witnesses to poke holes in the prosecution’s case.

Corasanti’s defense used witness after highly paid witness to make the prosecution’s burden of proof seem like a load of another kind. Was he really driving that fast? Was Rice partially in the roadway? Couldn’t Corasanti’s fancy car have absorbed the impact without his knowing?

Reasonable questions, yes. Reasonable doubt? That is a question for jurors to decide, not us. But it would seem reasonable to point out a man of lesser means wouldn’t have been able to ask them.