Drivers Still Innocent After Proven Guilty

Being drunk, killing someone and fleeing the scene was still not enough to get a conviction when the perpetrator was cloaked in the body of an automobile:

A Buffalo-area jury acquitted Dr. James Corasanti of all felony charges stemming from the death of an 18-year-old girl he hit with his car. This is despite the fact he was drinking and texting, and drove off from the scene leaving the young girl to die. Paradoxically, he was convicted of misdemeanor DWI.

As has become standard in cases such as this, Corasanti alleged he never saw the victim, Alexandria Rice, who was returning home from work one night last summer. This defense is tried and true in our justice system as drivers are regularly not found responsible for hitting and killing people with their vehicles. A chilling quote from Corasanti's defense attorney sums things up: "We believe the jury saw it for what it was -- a tragic, horrible accident."

In just about every other facet of life, individuals are held responsible for their life-threatening actions, whether intentional or due to their own negligence. Not so for drivers. As long as you claim not to have killed someone on purpose, you are free to wreak as much havoc as you like with your car.

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13 Responses:

  1. Tom says:


  2. bode says:

    This guy certainly looks rather guilty. However he had what appears to be a fair trial with competent lawyers, prosecutors, judges. He even testified and the jury of his peers didn't convict him. This is a more sober analysis by veteran lawyers (defense and prosecution). Interesting:

    Area lawyers weigh in on outcome of trial

    I'm not sure what to make of it. The laws are sound, the players for the state did their job well, and he wasn't convicted. I guess I'd pick a different example to file under "miscarriage of justice."

    Oh, and the family is going to win a 7 or 8 figure settlement from the guy.

    • Sean Barrett says:

      The thing you link offers this quote:

      "Whether or not he was drunk was one issue, but did that contribute to the accident?"

      If this issue was actually something that was actually part of how the case was decided, that is terribly dumb. If we can say that if someone dies during commission of a felony, then the felonist is automatically guilty of murder, then why can't we say that if somebody dies as a result of being hit by a drunk driver, then the drunk driver is automatically guilty of murder? That is the point of the complaints about this, I think.

      People who choose to drive drunk are taking people's lives into their hands whether they kill anyone or not, just by taking that chance and driving while intoxicated -- all those drivers are taking the same risk. We just only prosecute the ones who get unlucky and actually do kill someone. But now we're not even doing that.

      (This inequivalent guilt called "moral luck" in philosophy.)

      And arguably we should do more than that. If we as a society really thought drunk driving was that bad, then we should convict everyone who drunk drives of attempted murder (of the members of the population at large).

      • Yariv says:

        In Israel driving while intoxicated is illegal. The police routinely stops cars for inspection and tests the alcohol level in the driver's blood (there is some device you have to breath into). If you get caught driving while drinking you will probably go to jail.

        Of course, if you are some guy with connections, the penalty will probably be relatively short, even if you crashed into someone and killed him. Some things never change...

  3. Nick Lamb says:

    That's a jury of your peers for you. Your peers drive when they're drunk. They'd tell you they're never really impaired, you know, maybe just one beer, or a couple, but never, well, hardly ever more. Except if they need to use the car in the morning, or if it's late and they can't find a taxi, or if they got muddled and forgot it was their turn to stay sober. But other than that, they don't do it.

    And so when the defendant looks at the jury, the jurors don't see a person who behaved despicably and is now facing the penalty, they see themselves, they see their "mistakes" and they do not want to face the fact that they're guilty too. They're not clearing some guy they've never met, they're asserting their own innocence. "When I drive drunk, it's not because I'm a bad person".

    The refusal by juries to convict people who do the same wrong things they've done, or would do, is nothing new. It's the entire premise of the "defence" for some categories of people. The evidence presented is irrelevant, their "defence" lawyers are just there to persuade the jury to see themselves in the place of the defendant and then a guilty verdict is impossible.

    No use fixing the law, you've got to fix the people. In a culture where the idea of driving a vehicle when intoxicated seems crazy, it's no problem to convict these drivers. The jury doesn't see someone like them it sees a crazy person, needing to be taken off the streets urgently before their negligence kills again.

  4. Matt says:

    I've been driving since I was 16, damn near daily. 6 months ago, I switched jobs and am taking Caltrain to work.

    I realized something - driving is scary. Really scary. I'm controlling a 2 ton living room moving at 70 miles an hour. Shit can go wrong, and I could kill someone.

    If I'd grokked this when I was 16, I'm not sure I would have been able to drive without fear. As it is, I'm way more vigilant than I was before.

    • All cars should come equipped with bombs. Any collision that triggers the airbags has a random 1 in 10 change of triggering the bomb instead.

      If it goes off, it's no one's fault. It's just an "accident".

      • jwz says:

        I was always partial to the idea that instead of airbags, the center of the steering wheel should be a big metal spike pointed directly at your heart. Let's see who tailgates now.

    • mikecotton says:

      Same thing happened to me when I moved to SF from Texas and started taking BART to work.

  5. ethelred the unready says:

    I saw someone drive drunk one time. I think all cars should be banned because all drivers are drunk.

  6. AutoJack says:

    I was just on a jury in San Francisco that acquitted a cyclist of leaving the scene of an accident after he, or I should say, someone, hit a pedestrian (the defense was that it was a mistaken identity case, and that the defendant was not the guy who committed the crime). What I found interesting was the elements of crime that had to be proven for us to find him guilty. These are the same whether it's a car, bicycle or other vehicle. Among them is that the person has to have known they were involved in an accident. If they didn't know, it can't be considered a hit and run. In my case the cyclist knocked a pedestrian over but did not fall off his bike himself, according to witnesses. Thus our defendant could easily have claimed that he MIGHT have caused the accident, but he had no idea. It would have been difficult for us to convict him, given the evidence we had, if that had been his defense.

  7. Bill says:


    It used to be you had to be a senior member of the Democratic party to get away with that kind of thing.

  8. Dennis says:

    You can kill someone and be sentenced to hold a sign and then not have to complete it.


    Giacona pleaded guilty on Jan. 18 and was sentenced to one year in jail. He served 90 days of that sentence, but because of his good behavior, he was credited with 180. He was then given shock probation, where the rest of his jail time is suspended. The Legislature created shock probation to "scare straight" those who are good candidates for rehabilitation.