Former major league baseball player Jim Leyritz had enough time to stop before a fatal 2007 car crash but was too drunk to react to a traffic light and should be convicted of DUI manslaughter, a Florida prosecutor told jurors in a closing argument Thursday in Fort Lauderdale.
Stefanie Newman, an assistant state attorney, said evidence in Leyritz’s 10-day trial showed that he consumed the equivalent of 11 to 12 shots of liquor before getting behind the wheel of his Ford Expedition on Dec. 28, 2007. A state expert said his blood-alcohol level was likely more than twice Florida’s 0.08 limit when he collided with a Mitsubishi Montero driven by 30-year-old Fredia Ann Veitch, killing her.
The critical decision for jurors is whether Leyritz ran a red light or had yellow before the crash, meaning Veitch would have run the light.
“If he ran the light, and the victim had a green light, then he caused this crash,” Newman said. “He could have avoided this crash. He had a good four seconds of yellow to stop.”
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Leyritz’s attorney, David Bogenschutz, countered that defense experts showed Leyritz may have been under the DUI limit when the crash occurred, his blood tests were unreliable, and that two state eyewitnesses were less than definitive under close questioning about who had the right of way. Veitch, a mother of two, was also drunk that night.
Leyritz, 46, faces between four and 15 years in prison if convicted. Mostly a catcher over his 11 big-league seasons with several teams, Leyritz is best known for a dramatic home run that helped the New York Yankees win the 1996 World Series.
Jurors deliberated almost two hours Thursday without reaching a verdict and will return this afternoon.
Minnesota Twins general manager Bill Smith gave manager Ron Gardenhire a two-year extension through the 2013 season, a day after he was picked as the American League Manager of the Year.
With six division titles in the nine years since he took over for a franchise long high on loyalty, stability and continuity, Gardenhire’s job continues to be among the most secure in baseball despite a 12-game postseason losing streak dating to 2004. This is the fifth time Gardenhire’s contract has been extended since he was hired in 2002.
The Twins went 94-68 this year before being swept again in the first round of the playoffs by the New York Yankees.
Lou Piniella, who retired in August as manager of the Chicago Cubs, has an invitation from New York Yankees co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner to take part in next year’s Old-Timers’ Day at Yankee Stadium. As an outfielder, Piniella helped the Yankees win World Series championships in 1977 and 1978. He later was a manager and executive for New York. …Infielder Clint Barmes was traded from the Colorado Rockies to Houston for pitcher Felipe Paulino. Primarily a second baseman with Colorado, he was told that he’ll play mostly shortstop in Houston.